‘Porcupine,’ written and directed by Mike Cahill, dives into the ideas what family is and a different approach to finding a new one. Porcupine screened at the 24th SCAD Savannah Film Festival and Cahill was there to experience the film with the festival audience.
“We didn’t think we’d ever have a chance to do that. We cut the whole film remotely. I was in California and my editor was in Illinois, so there was really no way to know if the timing works,” said Cahill about the editing process for the film.
“There are some things that you want people to laugh at, but you don’t know until you’re in a room with people and we hadn’t had that experience. Savannah was just the second time that we had that experience and it’s just so nice to be in the room and to have it work,” he said.
The film is based on a true story about an adult woman who puts herself up for adoption and forms a bond with the pessimistic patriarch of her adoptive family.
“I was introduced to her ten or more years ago, and she told me her story, and she had written some articles about it in publications. The first time I talked to her, we talked for like 3 hours on the phone and I found we had a lot in common. So, her story was interesting, I just loved it,” said Cahill.
The film follows Audrey, a lively young woman, who is always on the move. In the past two years, she has lived in four different places and has had several different jobs. She is distanced from her own family, dumped by her boyfriend, and is facing eviction. At this point she decides to put herself up for adoption and find a new family.
“The idea of it, of searching for a new family is appealing to a lot of people, and just the boldness of her having done that, placing an ad and interviewing people, and having a party for a group of people who were potential candidates for her being her adoptive parents and then finding somebody. A couple that adopted her and they are still there for her as far as parents,” said Cahill.
Through this journey, Audrey meets Sunny and Otto who opens her to their lives and family, but this match is not a perfect fit, and she discovers that Sunny and Otto are not the most perfect couple. Despite this Audrey and Otto form a bond after going through some difficult situations.
“The only time things work is when they’re a little far apart, then they find sort of common ground. The idea is it helps to think about porcupines in the winter, in the snow, they’re cold. They want to, like all animals. They want to get together to warm up, but then they hurt each other and must back away. They must find that place where they’re not hurting each other,” said Cahill.
Audrey’s experiences with Sunny and Otto are genuine, awkward and difficult at times but are very touching as well. The film also focuses on the very simple and sometimes routine parts of everyday life but still engaging to watch.
There is an intimacy given to the scenes and actors in the film. Cahill did give attention to details of how the scenes were captured but also captured the real human interactions of his cast.
“I’ve now seen it with two audiences, and there’s a real sort of communal feeling and people have expressed this afterwards in Q and A’s. That may just be because we were all apart because of the pandemic and now it’s just exciting to be back in a room together with people. I hope that the movie does that, that it makes people feel closer, that it’s a communal experience, that loneliness is not something. It’s temporary, right? It’s temporary,” Cahill said.
The film stars Jena Malone (Hunger Games) as Audrey and Robert Hunger-Buhler as Otto. At the SCAD Savannah Film Festival Cahill won the Jury Award for Excellence in Storytelling and the Jury Award for Best Performance went to Jena Malone.