Sarah Gadon is one of those Canadian actresses that is always a joy to watch. As her performance evolves, her strength and vision in the characters she portrays becomes unique and extravagant. If you have seen her latest work in Netflix’s “Alias Grace” then you know what level of talent I am talking about. In spite of that, it always seemed that there is something more she can give than she is usually asked for and that becomes more obvious in Sook-Yin Lee’s first feature film (made dozens of short films before) “Octavio is Dead” where the actress transforms herself from her usual self into an unrecognizable lost soul who becomes the question mark in search of answers…
Tyler (Sarah Gadon) just lost her job. As bad news would continue to keep coming, she learns about the estranged father who passes away. However, his last will was to leave his mansion to his daughter that never knew him. But instead, she inherits his troubled complicated life where instead of beginning the new chapter of her life, the young woman begins learning the details of her father’s and mother Joan’s (Rosanna Arquette) past with which Tyler will have to deal in her very strange way…
As soon as the film begins, the viewer is left alone to view the painting on the wall with a beautiful soundtrack that sets an absolute queer and moody atmosphere that never ends throughout the film. When Tyler learns that she is being laid off, she first does not tell her mother about it. As she is drowning into her own personal world, she quickly was brought up to reality when a knock on the door brings her new prospects in the light of the death of her father, the renowned poet Octavio. First, Tyler refuses to accept anything that belonged to the man that never cared about her and even agrees to leave everything to her mother, but shortly after she embarks herself on a trip where she decides to spend some time in the mansion left to her by Octavio.
The apartment itself is large but has dark secrets to keep. And soon Tyler has to face the consequence of her action through the appearance of the man in the home – the ghost of her father who is trapped in it. But if you think that it’s all you’re about to see in “Octavio is Dead”, then I am going to disappoint you that it is not. Tyler will go way beyond her abilities and put herself into the dangerous game of the past, as you might know, which does not hold all the answers but has one that can either bring comfort or destroy life itself. Of course, while Tyler is yet to learn more about Joan and Octavio’s relationship through her journey, it’s the new self she is about to explore that eventually will put to rest everything she feels she no longer requires, including the old Tyler.
“Octavio is Dead” is a very strange film to watch. While it purposely takes the viewer into its dark world, the plan is to explore not only its sexuality, but its true purpose that lived in Octavio, Tyler or even her mother, Joan. Sarah Gadon as Tyler delivers an impressive and challenging performance that proves she is willing to dive into the skin of the character she portrays leaving nothing unsaid or untouched. As she keeps digging deep into Tyler’s mind, Raoul Max Trujillo as Octavio delivers another powerful performance to capture the double life of Octavio and why he could not help but keep himself in the closet as long as it was needed to protect Joan, his daughter, and his own life.
In conclusion, while “Octavio is Dead” is far from being called a masterpiece, through its outstanding performances, sensual soundtrack and solid direction from Sook-Yin Lee, it turns into a solid piece that’s worthwhile seeing. Of course you might ask what does this film offer that any other film does not have, which will be a valid question. But that dark and chilling atmosphere that stays in between two parallels of reality and what might occur in the mind, “Octavio is Dead” is capable of drawing you to that world whether you want it or not. It’s all about the right state of mind and mood to be in in order to get into the world of gender of women and men, life and death and what it might bring next if Octavio is dead.
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