I am old enough to remember when Sook-Yin Lee was a VJ on Much Music. A multi-talented lady she was also in a band as well as an actress. Once she left Much Music in 2001 she concentrated almost exclusively on her film career. Of late she has even narrowed that focus to writing and directing films. Her latest is Octavio is Dead!
Young adult Tyler (Sarah Gadon – Dracula Untold, Cosmopolis) lives with her mother. Money is tight as her mother is on disability. This makes the fact that Tyler has just lost her job at a book store even more problematic. All this takes a back seat after they find out that Tyler’s estranged father has died. Never really knowing her father, Tyler is not really affected by the news. That is until she finds out she is the sole heir named in his will. Because of the dysfunctional relationship she has with her mother (Roseanna Arquette – Pulp Fiction, Desperately Seeking Susan), Tyler tells the lawyer (Rachael Crawford – from television’s Degrassi: The Next Generation) to draw up papers so she can sign everything over to her mother.
Suddenly Tyler is on a bus traveling to where her father’s condo is. It is in a great state of disrepair to say the least. Especially when it comes to the bathroom. Which she finds out about from a strange neighbour. It is, however, rather large and filled with plenty of books and other interesting things. For instance, a rather large painting of her father, Octavio.
While wandering around the condo she encounters the ghost of her dearly departed father, Octavio (Raoul Max Trujillo – Riddick, Apocalypto). Further muddling things up is when she sees a young man at her father’s grave site. She follows him to a building, but cannot speak to him as the owner of the bar tells her that it is a private men’s club. Not willing to give up, Tyler cuts her hair and puts on one of her father’s suits so she can gain entry to the club. She meets Apostolis (Dimitris Kitsos – Park) and finds herself attracted to the young man. A young man she discovers was a student of her father’s and is gay. Plus they might have had a physical relationship besides the teacher/student one. That does not stop her attraction and leads her not to admit to Apostolis she is a woman.
At certain points of the film I honestly was not sure what was going on. Totally confused. Not surprising as the film itself is hard to categorize. It is a melange of gender identity, ghost story and sexual awakening. Plenty to keep your interest is happening, yet it falls short of working. Maybe it is because there is no real link made between any parts of the story. The parts do not make a whole. Or cogent story.
A unique film in that all gender lines are completely blurred. Though admittedly, Sarah Gadon is not going to fool anyone trying to pass as male. You do have to suspend belief in that regard. It totally takes you out of the story when Apostolis is attracted to him/her. Impossible that anyone with sight would not realize that this is a woman in man’s suit.