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Updated: Jan 5, 2023


The Holidays are upon us, which means we are once again faced with endless to-do lists, shopping, food, and the inevitable time spent with family. For some, this is a time of joy and reconnection, while for others, it can unfortunately mean added stress. While it is arguably the most wonderful time of the year, there are moments for many of us where we wish we could teleport away from the hustle and bustle and chaos of it all. Portal Runner, directed by Cornelia Duryee, mixes Christmastime pandemonium with time travel and parallel worlds in a sci-fi action thriller.

Immediately the film drops us straight into the middle of the story, where we see 15 year old Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel) come bursting through a mirror into his home, only to barrel through rooms in search of items and weapons. He’s clearly in a frenzy, which then melds into confusion when he discovers that his family aren’t exactly what he was expecting.

While attempting to hide in his room, he’s met by his annoyed Sister, (Mae), who is trying in vain to get him to leave her alone. Nolan is perplexed, which only adds to her exasperation, as he attempts to explain to her that her room actually belongs to him. It’s clear by both the decor and the ease of which Mae is settled in this room that Nolan is either very confused, or playing a trick on her, or both. As viewers, we are just as confused as Nolan and Mae are as we try to piece together what, exactly, is happening. Eventually, Nolan reveals that he doesn’t have a Sister, and doesn’t know who Mae is, and to HIM, this really is his room. Finally, we have the first pieces to a complicated puzzle that we can begin to put together.

From there, we are introduced to the rest of Nolan’s family, who thankfully are who he expects them to be; his well-meaning Mother, Klara (Carol Roscoe), and his befuddled Uncle, Boon (Brian S. Lewis). It’s at this point that we learn it’s Christmas, which for the most part serves as merely the setting for the story. The clueless, calm nature of his Mother and Uncle make for a comical contrast compared to Nolan’s ever-increasing anxiety over the situation he’s in.

That situation, even this far into the movie, is still not completely understood. Nolan spends much of his time pretending to act normal despite his predicament, spending awkward moments opening Christmas gifts and shopping with his family. As these moments unfold, we get fed tidbits to further explain the plot.

As it turns out, Nolan has figured out how to travel through mirrors to parallel worlds that are much like his own, but with subtle differences. Items might have a distinct appearance from one world to the next, but before now, nothing major has been opposite from what he knows. That is, of course, until he discovers Mae.

All of that would be hard enough to come to terms with, but Nolan soon realizes that Mae is able to affect the portals that he is traveling through. Of course, there’s also the more pressing dilemma that he’s being chased by an evil entity who is able to pursue him through each world he travels through. It’s up to Mae to help him find a way to defeat this threat and right the ship that is their already problematic world, all while discovering that their portal-jumping abilities truly do run in the family.

Portal Runner packs a lot of story into the very short timeframe of only 73 minutes. Starting it off in the manner in which it does is certainly a bold move, and there’s a lot of hope placed on the storytelling by the audience that it will ultimately start to all make sense. The pacing does a fine job ensuring there are no lulls, although that does little to aid in any less confusion.

Still, the characters are charming, nutty, and likeable, each with distinct personalities that mesh well together and make for a fitting combination with the Christmas setting. There is a satisfying payoff, though, and by the final moments there is a definite understanding to the crux of the story. Amidst a plethora of movies that center around time travel and alternate worlds, Portal Runner offers a unique, but sometimes bewildering, experience.

6.5 OUT OF 10


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