Review by Sean Boelman
Science fiction is an interesting genre because it is arguably the one most inherently conducive to imagination, and yet we see creators returning to familiar and comfortable ideas in their work. And while Eric Schultz’s new thriller Minor Premise owes a lot to Robert Louis Stevenson, it takes the basic premise of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and brings it to the modern day in a fascinating way.
The film follows a scientist whose experiment goes awry, resulting in the unexpected and dangerous side effect of his psyche fracturing into ten fragments, each taking over his body at different intervals throughout the day. Like a lot of sci-fi, the focus here isn’t really on having the audience understand the science, but rather, the emotional impact that it has on the characters.
Admittedly the themes aren’t particularly subtle. Much like Cursoe’s classic tale, the moral here is that we all have our own demons, and we have to learn to work through those demons no matter how much it hurts. However, there is a reason why this story has stood the test of time, and that is because it still rings true.
The first hour or so is pretty great, exploring the character-driven aspects of the story. For the last act, the script turns into more conventional thriller material, closer to what one would expect, but it still offers a satisfying payoff to the arc that had been being built so intricately up to that point.
The protagonist in the movie is really interesting, and the way in which the writers approach developing the different sides of his personality is unique. The purpose is not to define them each as distinct characters, but as building blocks to the greater whole, and it is absolutely fascinating.
Sathya Sridharan is extremely charming, so he makes for a great lead (and he bears an uncanny resemblance to Succession star Jeremy Strong, but that’s beside the point). He’s able to pull off a very demanding performance, creating clear delineations between the different sides of his role yet still bringing a lot of subtlety to the table.
Schultz’s style is definitely very minimalistic in nature, set mostly within one confined location and set design that is rather basic. But for a low-budget sci-fi with little world-building, the fact that the film is so immersive and absorbing is impressive. It just speaks to the power of the script that it’s absolutely fascinating.
Minor Premise is a simple but well-done sci-fi. It will be interesting to see what both filmmaker Eric Shultz and star Sathya Sridharan do next, because both of them show a lot of talent and potential in this project.
Minor Premise screened as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which ran August 20-September 2.