A young widow, grappling with her loss, is holed up in her house on New Year’s Eve as celebrations sound off around her in the neighborhood. Tonight, though, she’s tending to her newborn.
But a home intruder tries to get inside their house, sending the young mother to call 911, her own gun in hand. As the intruder ramps up their efforts, the mother asks the 911 operator for permission to shoot. What she does next may be the difference between life and death for her and her baby.
Writer-director Clifford Miu’s tense short thriller puts viewers firmly in the POV of the young mother, unspooling the intensely engaging action in real-time and limiting our knowledge and information to what the main character sees and knows.
Captured in real-time and in one place with energetic yet precise camerawork, the story essentially captures a crucial incident in one woman’s life. Beat by beat, the effective performances escalate with the sound and images to ratchet up the fear and tension, and by the climax, hearts should be pounding as the mother makes her final choice.
The narrative may be limited to one real-time incident — and the thrills may be at the forefront of the film — but it also managed to unpack how social hot-button issues like gun rights and castle doctrine intersect in everyday lives. The film doesn’t take sides, espouse any position or take positions, but it shows itself aware of what’s going on politically and socially in the world, incorporating it seamlessly into its drama. It might startle some when the mother asks permission to shoot, but the drama also indicates an awareness about how issues we see and read about on the news can intimately impact our instinctual reactions.
“Porcupine” is a deftly wrought piece of entertainment, weaving all elements of film craft to create a heart-pounding experience that lets us see and feel the world through another’s eyes. But with its subtle element of social awareness, the short gains an element of thoughtfulness that is never heavy-handed, but substantial enough to provoke reflection along with its thrills.