Getting into a taxi, Jahnavi (Trina Saha) steps into a vehicle after a night of partying wanting to go home but accidentally calls a shared cab instead of a personal one. When her ride gets another passenger, it’s just the beginning for Jahnavi’s hidden phobia’s to come to light and take the ride on an unusual journey.
“Midnight Mirror” is an interesting and enjoyable effort. Most of this is centered around Mahji’s use of playing on the fear of hodophobia, a rather newfound and challenging condition about the irrational and intense fear of travel. Often characterized by extreme anxiety and at times hallucinations, the whole idea of what happens during the ride plays off that wonderfully. This occurs from the miscommunication about the other passenger coming onboard to Jahnavi constantly trying to get in touch with her mother to calm her down during the trip and finally dealing with the accident on the way home, once she’s alone. The combination of these tactics makes for an effective exploration of the condition and why she’s so fearful of traveling in a modern-day environment.
As well, Mahji also displays quite an effective and pronounced technical skill throughout the short. The camera-work here is quite surprising, managing to maneuver between tight, cramped shots of Jahnavi and the other passenger in the backseat to straightforward shots of the car traveling through the streets. These last scenes are shot with the car door splitting the screen, showing the driver and her in the backseat on one side and the bustling streets on the other. This adds an effective and engaging sense of travel through the activity being captured. The odd noises around her along the way create an immersive effect that helps to be unsettling at times.
However, there’s also the issue that the short seems predicated only on the uncomfortable nature of Jahnavi as she sits in the backseat of the car listening to the passenger yammer on about how different she is from her on-screen persona. Despite her clearly not wanting to engage him further, the fact that she continues to let the passenger talking consists of the majority of the running time here. As that constitutes some effective paranoia, that’s ultimately lessened by the inactivity to really do anything with the condition at the heart of the story, since nothing truly happens to warrant featuring the hodophobia angle in the end.
Clearly successful in its attempt to tell a modern-day story and angle with a condition that couldn’t really exist in most other time-periods, Mahji’s short is an effective ride that doesn’t have much wrong with it. Technically sound in most regards as well, this is a solid and engaging effort that shows a director on the rise and one who should be kept an eye on.