There’s always that extraordinarily obscure film that you feel the instant urge to recommend to all your friends after you witness it. Maybe it’s due to a lack of appreciation or overwhelmingly positive qualities but nothing beats the feeling of being the bearer of soon-to-be treasured media. I am quite ecstatic to be that bearer to you today, as I inform you about a little-known Canadian flick by the name of OCTAVIO IS DEAD! The narrative follows Tyler, a sexually-confused young man who just discovered the news of her mysterious father’s passing. We follow his adventures as he struggles to make sense of domestic strains and who his father truly was.
Sook Yin-Lee makes it apparently obvious what she is trying to accomplish with her sophomore feature (following YEAR OF THE CARNIVORE and as well is an accomplished actress in her own right), as she sets the tone delightfully with an ominous score that enchants the opening credits. The following credits also feature foreshadowing of what’s to come throughout the narrative, this all happens very subtly behind the bleeding opening credits. All of this is happening in a very short time span that was meant to do nothing more but credit those who put effort into crafting the film; just imagine what cinematic wonders await for the actual film. Yin-Lee teases and intimidates her audience to get their veins pumping with adrenaline. Her tactics are reminiscent of the effect that older films had with their blissfully-long overtures, it’s truly magnificent.
From this frame onward, we are invited to a brave new world of tension-filled situations and thoroughly explored and diverse characters. Tyler (portrayed by the massively captivating Sarah Gadon who deserves big credit for an extremely ominous performance) is an incredibly likeable character who possess most of the narrative’s emotional tension. The abundantly high stakes that follow him through every scenario create an intense intrigue due to her relatable mission of self-discovery; his race to truly become human, if you will. The characters that surround Tyler are reflections of his eternal struggle; most notably a love interest who unintentionally haunts begins to haunt every move he makes on the long and confusing road that he can’t see the end of.
Through every eerie location and every suburban landscape, sometimes drenched in pathetic fallacy, we have Daniel Grant’s impeccably thorough and eye-candy inducing cinematography that gives every pixel of every frame a carefully developed life and a story of its own. Grant utilizes various techniques to continue to engage viewers visually and his intricate detail when observing lighting spaces and creating tension in ominous environments stands out as some of the most impressive so far this year. Far too many films that I have seen recently have involved a very still and unexcited camera that observes the events on screen with nil amounts of energy and enthusiasm.
Yin-Lee wears her influences on her sophisticated and sharply-dressed sleeves as she crafts a delicate love letter to the LGTBTQ+ community that partners with a captivating tale of mystery. It is truly a romanticized nightmare that dives head-first into incredibly brave subject matters and situations. It takes a lot of courage not only as an artist, but also as a human being, to make something with this amount of personal passion that bleeds from every still image. It ultimately suffers from brief downfalls of awkward overacting and editing decisions and overly modified characters that pervert audience decisions, but these flaws are too few and far between to have them revoke your entertainment from the entire experience. I feel an incredibly passionate love affair between this movie and myself already beginning to blossom.
For now, I’ll just take all of its beauty in.
OCTAVIO IS DEAD! is currently in a limited theatrical release in Canada, with a VOD Release on September 18th