Minor Premise – Film Review

Minor Premise takes quite a major premise in scientific theory concerning the fragments that construct our personalities and attempts to condense this into a thriller. Unfortunately, Minor Premise is too dense for its own good, with its technical, complex issues, which produces a rather muddled film. Echoing The Butterfly Effect and Memento at times with its focus on the mind, memory and non-linear timelines, Minor Premise is thinly developed plot wise but ultimately produces more questions than answers concerning the elements of the consciousness and personality traits.

Ethan is a scientist, read that as an isolated, socially awkward scientist, attempting to resolve a scientific conundrum explored by his late father. Ethan, wishing to continue his father’s legacy and effectively redeem himself in his father’s eyes, undertakes an unsuccessful neuroscience experiment on himself to isolate intelligence. Minor Premise, when it is not attempting to obfuscate the plot with complex biochemistry intertwined with philosophical theories, is an intriguing study of the psychology of grief and having to contend with the associated emotional pain and anger. Some people may lose themselves in work, become emotionally withdrawn or in Ethan’s case may attempt to erase all memories of pain and discover the very essence of their own identity by fragmenting it into 9 distinct sections including euphoria, anger, libido and intellect.

The 9 personality sections in Minor Premise
The 9 personality sections in Minor Premise

Minor Premise is the feature directorial debut from Eric Schultz with Nev Schulman of MTV’s Catfish fame as an Associate Producer. The film featured within the 2020 Sci-Fi London Festival following its World Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival and received a Best Motion Picture nomination at the Catalonian International Film Festival.

However, the main draw in Minor Premise was watching Dana Ashbrook of Twin Peaks fame perform. Unfortunately, Dana seems to have limited screen time within the film whereas his character Malcolm’s relationship with Ethan, following Ethan’s father’s scientific research, is left undeveloped. Minor Premise is essentially a one location film with quick edits creating that sense of discombobulation as the various fragments of Ethan’s personality physically emerge within each hour with the threat of absorbing Ethan’s psyche and control entirely. Sathya Sridharan certainly performs well showing a range of emotions as the different sections of Ethan’s personality.

Dana Ashbrook as Malcolm in Minor Premise
Dana Ashbrook as Malcolm in Minor Premise

It is an intriguing concept within Minor Premise concerning the potential to compartmentalise the various elements of the self and to discover which fragments are ultimately more powerful than others. Minor Premise examines this concept of isolating fragments well, when Ethan’s experiment goes awry, but also explores the degree to which we keep the truth and elements of our personality suppressed from others as well as ourselves. It is obvious that this scientific discussion is a passion project for Schultz and the film’s writers with their degrees in Psychology, Neuroscience and Biotechnology. Minor Premise, however, perhaps requires further background explanations and a build up of emotional resonance to entice most audiences.

The experiment device in Minor Premise
The experiment device in Minor Premise

Overall, Minor Premise is gripping as a psychological character study given the levels of anxiety and desperation experienced by Ethan thereby ramping up the film’s tension. The camera angles create that frenetic but unsettling, nerve inducing sensation as there is that descent into despair as time begins to run out for Ethan to complete the puzzle for the experiment. However, given that Ethan has effectively alienated his former lover and others working on the previous incarnations of the project, the added layer of suspense is in not knowing who to trust, which the film conveys well when relying on the thriller tropes.

Filmed on a low budget, Minor Premise does not provide sufficient time for its audience to grasp the theory on display. Equally, there is insufficient time to become emotionally invested in any of the characters or the logic behind conducting the experiment as the scientific theory is unveiled at an accelerated pace. As such, Minor Premise would have benefited from more substantial character development. However, as a sci-fi thriller, it is lacking without enough high stake, impactful moments. Without such thrills and spills, Minor Premise is not thoroughly convincing as a thriller, but it is apt as an analysis of the power of the mind as Ethan is told, ‘there are some things, that you shouldn’t try to control.’

Sathya Sridharan as Ethan in Minor Premise
Sathya Sridharan as Ethan in Minor Premise

The mind warping elements within Minor Premise continue to its fascinating conclusion – we do not know what to believe … what is the truth and how our brain can trick us … It is certainly food for thought and Minor Premise opens our minds to the realms of the consciousness and the exciting potential for neuroscientific discovery on the complexity of the human condition and our sense of self.

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