Attempting to surpass his father’s legacy and pressured by an old colleague (Dana Ashbrook of TWIN PEAKS), a reclusive neuroscientist becomes entangled in his own risky experiment. Ethan (Sathya Sridharan) has now locked himself in his home with his ex-girlfriend Allie (Paton Ashbrook) and the two navigate trauma, ambition, and missteps of the past. Diving headfirst into the uncharted equations of the brain, they realize that there is more at stake than just their relationship or Ethan’s reputation. With time quickly running out, he is forced to face off against the darker sides of himself while frantically attempting to solve an enigma that lies within his subconscious.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQIB1PKEKAg
With cinemas running short on new material, film festivals have become the go-to for die hard fans to digest something fresh. I’m (virtually) attending the Fantasia International Film Festival for the first time in 2020. The festival focuses on genre films from across the spectrum and my first offering was Eric Schultz’s directorial debut, Minor Premise.
The film takes the idea of a psychological thriller and twists it around a broadly science-fiction foundation. A fractured psyche is by no means a new idea. We’ve seen split personalities on the big screen a million times over. But never has a film approached the idea quite as originally as Minor Premise.
Ethan (Sathya Sridharan) is a fairly typical character. He lives in the shadow of a brilliant but deceased father. His work goes uncredited in his field. He’s recently suffered a break-up. But placed in this wholly original setting the familiar becomes something entirely new.
Continuing his father’s work, Ethan has used the tech in his basement to separate out the various characteristics in his mind. It’s a simple yet effective plot device to allow Sridharan to portray more than a handful of different characters. As the hours tick by the different centres of the brain take control running the gamut from euphoric all the way through to paranoid.
Locked in the house with him, just to complicate matters, is his ex-girlfriend Allie (Paton Ashbrook). As the 90min+ runtime rolls on the two are able to examine their own relationship with each other as well as with the science of their experiment.
Minor Premise features a well paced script which builds tension as the hours tick by. It starts out rooted in the science. But as time goes by and the desperation to return Ethan’s mind to normal grows things really get angsty. Add in the feeing of claustrophobia which comes from being trapped in one location and Minor Premise makes for compelling viewing.
Clocking in at 94mins, Minor Premise does struggle a little to fill the time. A well constructed first act and dramatic conclusion are separated by a fairly plodding middle as Ethan descends in to madness. It lingers a little too long on setting up the different facets of his personality. But for a directorial debut is still an incredibly inspired watch.
The set design, music and cinematography all perfectly compliment the story. The basement lab is wonderfully murky and bathed in fluorescent light, whilst the rest of Ethan’s house feels a little more warm. Close-up shots are tightly framed and suitably uncomfortable. It all adds up to a satisfying experience which takes the psychological thriller to a new level.
Minor Premise is an exciting but overlong exploration of one man’s scattered psyche.
Minor Premise is directed by Eric Schultz based on a script co-written with Justin Moretto and Thomas Torrey. The film stars Dana Ashbrook, Paton Ashbrook and Sathya Sridharan.