Pardon me for sounding blasé, but I can’t help but clench when a Canadian film makes supernatural suggestions. Other than the odd exception (A Sunday Kind of Love), these are ideas that are usually squandered of their potential (Considering Love & Other Magic). Imagine my surprise in Octavio Is Dead!, the latest filmmaking effort from Shortbus actor Sook-Yin Lee, when the writer/director treaded familiar ground but drove her film in a darker direction; blending different worlds into one reality.
After inheriting her absent father’s possessions after his sudden death, Tyler (Sarah Gadon) makes a stealth escape from her hysterical mother (Rosanna Arquette) to piece together the past. Right away, she feels the presence of company and, soon enough, she’s being contacted by her father Octavio (Raoul Max Trujillo). Sinking deeper within her own discoveries (including going undercover as an alternate persona), Tyler reveals more layers to Octavio’s history and her own identity.
The premise of a meek, confused individual being reawakened on a personal journey is a dependable blueprint; it’s the moviegoing journey that gives Octavio Is Dead! a refreshing kickstart. As much as Octavio Is Dead! is linear, it’s fairly abstract in terms of atmosphere. Like Tyler, movie goers are supposed to feel uncertain about where the film is headed. When the film hits its disturbing and tense climaxes, Sook-Yin Lee’s ambitious filmmaking and Gadon’s sensational performance regulates the story during the emotional turbulence, making the audience feel unsettled but confident that the film’s attentive creators are in full control.
Some movie goers will perceive it as a horror movie, while others will justify it as a character drama. However, both crowds will agree that Octavio Is Dead! is very good.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie