Opening Night

Jena Malone and Porcupine Open Sarasota Film Festival

The festival kicked off Friday night with a screening at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium.

By Kay Kipling April 2, 2022

Jena Malone and Robert Hunger-Buhler in Porcupine.

After two years spent dealing with pandemic-related issues, the Sarasota Film Festival is back in-person, kicking off Friday night, April 1, with a screening of the film Porcupine at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium.

The film, which is directed by M. (Michael) Cahill and stars Jena Malone, centers on a young woman drifting through life in upstate New York. Audrey (Malone) loses, in short order, her sleeping partner, her job and her electricity. She’s been through it all before. But this time, scrolling through adorable pet videos on her cell phone, she comes across a site that touches, not on animal adoptions, but on human ones, for adults seeking new families. Distant in more ways than one from her own parents in far-off California, she decides it’s worth a try. But finding the perfect family isn’t easy, even when she finally lands on a couple (Emily Kuroda and Robert Hunger-Buhler) who seem at least authentic.

Otto (Hunger-Buhler), a retired and very Teutonic engineer, isn’t exactly welcoming to the idea of adoption. He has two grown children who already hate spending time with him. But Audrey keeps coming around, and there’s that treehouse in the couple’s yard that needs fixing…

Porcupine is decidedly low-key in tone; there are no really big emotional scenes here. But, in a story where a “surprising amount” is actually true, according to the opening, there is both comedy and pathos to be found.

For much of the running time, the film is Malone’s to lead. As Malone and director Cahill (both on hand for a Q&A after the screening) relate, a good deal of her performance is given without words, in what Malone says is a naturalistic style, delivered by the looks on her face and her body language as she faces each new challenge with a resignedly cheerful air, despite her loneliness.

Malone and Cahill (center) in a Q&A session with SFF programmer Rodney Piatt.

Image: Staff photo

The movie had just a 22-day shoot, and for half of that time, co-star Hunger-Buhler was not on hand. His character was the last to be cast, and the Swiss actor had visa issues as well, so he came to the production well in progress. Cahill also had to do final edits and post-production remotely when the pandemic shut down most of the movie industry for a time.

But Porcupine (the title springs from the matter of how those prickly animals can only get so close to each other without somebody getting hurt, and you can easily see the human dimension to that) came out successfully despite its problems. It’s worth catching when you can.

Opening night outside the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium.

Image: Staff photo

In the meantime, the festival continues through April 10. Check out the schedule at

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