FANTASIA ’20 —‘Minor Premise’ is a Complex and Intelligent, If Slightly Monotonous, Micro-Thriller

A still from 'Minor Premise'. Ethan (Sathya Sridharan), a neuroscientist, stands centre frame in his laboratory in a white shirt. He looks sweaty and dishevelled.
Fantasia Film Festival

What if every single part of yourself — even the parts you try your hardest to repress in fear of judgement, suddenly rose to the surface? Your deepest, darkest, most personal thoughts now at the forefront, taking full control of your body and driving you to do the things you never thought you could be capable of?

That is the basic premise of Minor Premise, the feature-length directorial debut of producer Eric Schultz, who is also on scripting duties. Centring on reclusive neuroscientist Ethan (Sathya Sridharan), Minor Premise charts his journey as he tries to surpass his world renowned father’s legacy by launching his own groundbreaking experiment.

Equipped with his father’s old notebook and feeling the pressure from his colleague Malcolm (Dana Ashbrook) and his ex-girlfriend Alli (Paton Ashbrook), Ethan barricades himself in his house in order to force himself into discovering a breakthrough, resulting in a disastrous experiment that threatens to derail not only his career but his life as well.

Complex and intelligent, Minor Premise is the type of film Christopher Nolan would be making if he were an emerging filmmaker today. Not unlike his 2001 breakthrough hit Memento, Minor Premise is a mind-bender of a film that will no doubt require repeat viewings in order to fully and properly grasp. Chock-full of plot twists and intricacies, it demands the audience’s full attention — otherwise they run the risk of getting lost amidst the film’s relentless, no-holds-barred narrative. With a screenplay almost completely devoid of any exposition, Schultz never talks down to his audience, fully trusting in their abilities to grasp the elaborate, at times convoluted science behind Ethan’s experiments.

The film does lag in its second act, thanks to a repetitive sequence of events that show the side effects of Ethan’s experiments. Exhilarating and genuinely exciting to watch at first, the surprise factor soon dwindles down into an exasperating routine by the time the film gets to its conclusion. Minor Premise originally started out as a short film by Schultz and it’s evident that not much has been done to further develop its original log line into one that is worthy of a full feature. The film would’ve largely benefited from a subplot or two, or perhaps another character in order for it to avoid settling into a monotonous, mind-numbing lull.

While both Ashbrooks turn in excellent supporting performances in largely underwritten roles, Minor Premise is mostly a one-man show and Sridharan rises to the challenge, perfectly capturing the essence of a brilliant, talented man with a chip on his shoulder. Portraying nine different versions of his character, the film requires him to do some incredibly heavy lifting and Sridharan proves he is more than capable, successfully managing to separate each version of himself from the other and turning in an impeccable, nuanced performance in what should be a star-making turn for him. It is also incredibly refreshing to see an Indian American in the leading role of a sci-fi thriller, as they usually tend to be not the most diverse of genres.

Ultimately, Minor Premise is an original and effective — if slightly tedious — micro-thriller with an incredibly interesting concept that raises fascinating questions about humanity, will power and consciousness.

Minor Premise enjoyed its World Premiere at the virtual edition of Fantasia Festival 2020 on August 29th, it screened again on August 31st

by Ahmad W

Currently based in the UK and the UAE, Ahmad W. is a poster designer, budding screenwriter and journalist from Boston and the (self-proclaimed) #1 Robert Eggers stan. His favourite films include mother!, The Witch, Black Swan, Hereditary and Scream. His claim to fame is a DM he got from Ari Aster (who has since left him on read) and his favorite pastime is spending the day in a cold, half-empty movie theater. You can follow him on Twitter at @ephwinslow.

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