After reeling from the death of his father, an acclaimed neuroscientist named Ethan (Sathya Sridharan) embarks on a path to continue his dad’s work. Before his death, they had been working on the R9: a machine intended to record memories.
Minor Premise explores Ethan’s venture into new experimental revelations provided by his father’s work journal while he continues to work on the R10. This machine attempts to deconstruct the mind into ten distinct emotions that can construct memories and allow one to have better control of their consciousness. While attempting to piece it together, Ethan is still grieving both his father and a recent break up with his ex Alli (Paton Ashbrook). What this film tackles well is the idea of isolation and emotional turmoil: shots are up-close and blurred when Ethan first begins his experiments and begins to lose track of time as he blacks in and out, and Sridharan’s performance is admirable. He easily convinces the audience that his work on the experiment is born out of desperation to recover from his father’s death, and from the expectations of living under his father’s shadow.
While claustrophobia is arguably Minor Premise’s best feature, it’s also its downfall. We find Ethan falling deeper into his experiment, to the point where he ends up involving Alli. It’s too much for Ethan to handle as he realizes that every six minutes he transfers into another section of his consciousness, unable to remember what happened last (unless that section documents things for his ‘default’ state to see and comprehend later).
It’s a promising concept — unraveling the human consciousness to be able to control what memories and emotions we experience. It makes sense that Ethan wants to control the grief and pressure that follows him daily, but once we actually see these ten sections of human consciousness personified, the story seems like a lost opportunity.
The film runs for around an hour and a half and manages to not focus on the full range of emotions that Ethan has to corral during his experiment. From intellect to euphoria, to his supposed ‘default’ state and more, these variations of Ethan blend together. We don’t get much development of their use beyond intellect, which Ethan uses to construct the machine’s equations. The stand out ‘section’ is the villainous Psychotic Ethan, who attempts to sabotage the experiment by any means, even violent ones.
But are these sections really any different from the default Ethan? The film doesn’t allow us to see these distinctive lines between them and has a problem with pacing. Much of the conflict in the film could have been solved earlier but was oddly dragged out in favor of demonstrating the supposedly fearful Psychotic Ethan. Additionally, while the film did receive guidance from real scientific professionals from the Columbia University Medical Center, it relies on jargon and imagery that is thrown at the audience. This exacerbates the issue of the film not being able to connect the audience to its emotional thesis.
Grief drives us to do strange things, and often we wish we could be rid of the parts of ourselves which construct it. Minor Premise is a science-fiction thriller that demonstrates the troubles of attempting to control unpredictable human emotions but falls short of effectively examining the dynamic nature of these very emotions.