Science fiction films that explore big what-ifs always come with a catch. In Eric Schultz’s debut feature, “Minor Premise,” that catch is addressed five minutes in. A neuroscientist named Ethan (Sathya Sridharan) attempts to emerge from the shadow of his late father — also a neuroscientist — with his own breakthrough in the study of consciousness, by altering the subject’s memory to create a more ideal self. “Isn’t that, like, unethical?” one of his students asks. It is, if not unethical, at least a dense concept, one the film is constantly defeated by.
Ethan retreats to his basement and turns to himself as a test subject. Predictably, things go very wrong: His consciousness splits into ten different personalities, some more aggressive and uncooperative than others, appearing for six minutes an hour. Those cycles fill out this lean thriller but make it repetitive and tedious. Ethan’s colleague and estranged girlfriend Alli (Paton Ashbrook, the niece of the “Twin Peaks” actor Dana Ashbrook, who also stars in the film) comes to his aid, but their relationship isn’t fleshed out enough to justify her staying through this volatile and irrational trial.
The filmmakers went through great lengths to root the science in fact (one of the three co-writers, Justin Moretto, studied neuroscience and biotechnology), but these details bog down the story in muddled confusion. The core of Ethan’s science is that he maps emotions to make memories legible, but what the film could really use is an emotional anchor. When a movie that feels this scientifically far-reaching lacks heart, the viewing experience is a dreary, soulless one.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. In theaters and virtual cinemas, and available to rent or buy on Google Play, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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