Minor Premise

{Fantasia Fest} Minor Premise Review- An Exciting Movie With A Sequel In The Works

Eric Schultz’s directorial debut and breakout hit of Fantasia Fest, Minor Premise makes low budget sci-fi look like high concept cerebral drama.

Brain alteration is a mainstay in science fiction. The idea that we can fix the problems that plague us is alluring. We could defeat those mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, insecurity, and paranoia that rob us of success and happiness. We can strip away all the nonsense that keeps us from producing our best work. As in the brilliant Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, we can erase painful memories hampering us from moving forward in the future. That’s the jumping-off point for Minor Premise, which takes a surprising right turn a third of the way through.

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Note to self, drunk decision making is rarely a good idea. When those decisions alter your brain, it’s an even worse idea. Minor Premise is a reasonably straightforward brio; the hubris of man caused by negative human emotions leads to their demise. A young neuroscientist Ethan(Sathya Sridharan), is brilliant, reclusive, arrogant, and troubled. His father died recently, and it has left Ethan unsure of his place in the world and the scientific community. His father, who was also a scientist, was working on a device labeled simply the R9X. It maps and separates memories from its host brain. Ethan and his father were working on it together, but Ethan never felt like he got credit for his work or the respect he deserved. Those negative emotions have led to trust issues with his benefactors and irritation from his bosses and colleagues. He’s a barely tolerated mess.

Ethan, in a misguided attempt to erase his father’s memories, used the device on himself. It worked to some degree. It, unfortunately, also fractured the ten largest components of his brain. Every six minutes, a new fragment controls his body, and the others have no recollection of what has happened. The biggest problem with this is that not all the elements are decent people. You indulge your every whim and impulse when your moral compass is not there to guide you. Self-preservation becomes the only concern. Once Allie, Ethans’s ex-girlfriend and peer, arrives to find what Ethan has done she labels the components. After watching Ethan for one full cycle, she marks the personalties Collective, Anxiety, Anger, Libido, Unconscious, Intellect, Primitive, Creative, an unknown entity, and Euphoria. As time goes on, it becomes apparent the unknown personality is psychopathic.

As much as the film is about science, it is more deeply rooted in regret and grief. Memories shape who we are. We are more than just traits and experiences but the results of those things. Ethan and Alli(Paton Ashbrook) have a past that left both of them uncomfortable. They both made mistakes and continue to do so. Shown in snippets and subtext more than expository their full backstory gets fleshed out. Alli learned from those mistakes while Ethan fails to realize he is the most significant catalyst to his own progress. He is literally his own worst enemy. Once splintered, not every personality is onboard with recombining, and some of them are actively working against the more capable fragments. Allie and Ethan’s more altruistic parts realize secrets are being kept. That brings up old paranoia and complicates things even further.

Ashbrook and Sridharan have good chemistry together. They are believable as friends, colleagues, and past romantic partners. If these two didn’t work, the entire film would fall apart. We need them to be believable because as things become more and more bizarre, their decision making needs to be relatable instead of unbelievable. Alli stays to help when everything screams for her to leave because of shared history. Ashbrook manages to bring both the frustration and caring for Ethan Allie feels. The nuance, in particular, that Sridharan utilizes to show the different components of his personalities allows the other parts to feel like they belong to a whole. It isn’t different people but rather facets of a whole.

Minor Premise looks gritty. Ethan’s house and lab take on the feelings of the main protagonist. It becomes increasingly more intense, grimy, and surreal. Director of Photography Justin Derry captures the specific claustrophobic and voyeuristic view of Ethan. Along with Schultz, who knows how to frame a shot, this film lives and dies by Ethan. This film focuses on him. As he becomes more erratic and sicker, his view becomes ours, and the camera work smartly follows. What starts concerning becomes dangerous and later leaves us questioning.

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What if our best selves aren’t the most dominant? It’s an intriguing idea because it is so plausible. People are messy, and just as many times as not; they do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. You wonder who really survived as the credits role. Does it matter? What comes next? The best sci-fi does that. Films like Coherence, Primer, and Violentia build worlds and characters with careful plotting and simple stunts. Schultz’s movie is no different. A small budget doesn’t mean a small concept. This is the kind of movie you want to rewatch for clues and run to Reddit to discuss. It leaves you thinking about it long after. Minor Premise proves it’s certainly not secondary to anything.

You can catch Minor Premise as part of the Fantasia Fest live premieres. It is available again today while we wait for a worldwide release. In the live Q and A after the premiere, the cast and crew reveal there is a sequel coming (COVID permitting) told from Alli’s perspective. Yes, please! Find all our Fantasia Fest 2020 coverage here.

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