The Portable Door

There’s just something about the narrative concept of a normal person (let’s call them a muggle, for now) becoming embroiled in a world full of magic. It’s what initially captured the imaginations of readers of Tom Holt’s 2003 novel, which has now been adapted into a feature film, with Jeffrey Walker helming the story of The Portable Door.

The aforementioned, normal human thrust into an abnormal world is Paul Carpenter (Patrick Gibson), who is on his way to a job interview at a café, only for fate to intervene, or so he thought, as he winds up in front of a panel he hadn’t anticipated, applying for a job he knows nothing about. The unconventional employers, known as JW Wells & Co. have the romantic responsibility of engineering all of the every day coincidences that illuminate our lives, such as ‘random’ meetings with strangers that lead on to bigger, and more beautiful things.

The Portable Door

This may not have been Paul’s area of expertise, but this man needs a vocation and so when he is offered the position he eagerly begins, helped along by the affability of his fellow new recruit, Sophie (Sophie Wilde). Unsure quite what it is Paul needs to do, he finds himself tasked with the responsibility of finding a door, as his boss, and CEO, Humphrey Wells (Christoph Waltz) wants to get his hands on ‘The Portable Door’, but why, we don’t quite know.

Where this film thrives is in its unwavering commitment to the fantastical, with an ambitious narrative that takes the audience on a journey into this magical world beneath our noses, using the cipher of Paul as our ears and eyes, seeing this all unfold through his blissful, dumbfounded perspective. Unlike Harry Potter, who was a mere child, audiences can relate more so this adult man in regards to his more weathered sense of cynicism, as he effectively needs to be won round in the same we do.

The Portable Door

The early stages are where this tale comes to life, and while the film grows more surreal and whimsical as it continues on, you get a sense that the final act appeals more so to fans of the original novel, as it gets somewhat convoluted in parts, and those with an ingrained, and already-learned understanding of this universe will perhaps get more out of the feature, whereas those coming in fresh may find themselves playing catch-up.

The cast impress too, as both Gibson and Wilde do well to bring their characters to life, in a story that relies more so on the tale being told than the characters within it, as there isn’t a huge deal of character building. But they bring nuance and a palpable chemistry which compliments the romantic element of the narrative. And of course the older guard do their bit too – Sam Neill in particular evidently having good fun with his role of Dennis Tanner.

The Portable Door is an enjoyable story full of imagination, and with the film having been co-produced by the Henson Company, you get a sense for the practical effects, giving this a sort of classic cinematic feeling, unlike the CGI frenzies that so often make up modern fantasy blockbusters. It’s not quite Harry Potter, granted, but that’s a rather high bar. It’s Potter-lite – and honestly, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

The Portable Door is released on Sky Cinema on April 7