Sook-Yin Lee’s long-awaited follow-up to her 2009 romantic comedy Year of the Carnivore is another tale of connection and discovery, but with a supernatural twist. Recently laid off from her job, Tyler (Sarah Gadon) is stunned to hear that her father Octavio (Raoul Max Trujillo), who she never knew, died and left her everything. While her conniving mother (Rosanna Arquette) can only see the financial benefits of this turn of events, the death ignites a curiosity within Tyler to find out more about her father’s life.

Spending time in her father’s cluttered apartment, and interacting with those who knew Octavio best, including the handsome Apostolis (Dimitris Kitsos), Tyler begins to learn valuable lessons about identity, sexuality and unbreakable family bonds.

Octavio is Dead! is a ghost story that lives by its own rules. Lee employs several familiar supernatural tropes, such as Tyler being tasked with helping Octavio’s spirit get to the afterlife, but has no real interest in playing fully in that sandbox. The film is more concerned with exploring human connections and the complications that come with it.

Lee achieves this by getting strong performances from the cast. Sarah Gadon shines as Tyler, proving once again why she is one of the top actresses of her generation. Bringing interesting layers to the role, she ensures that Tyler’s gender-bending journey towards self-discovery never gets overshadowed by the film’s occasionally uneven tonal shifts.

Octavio is Dead! is not quite on par with Lee’s previous works, but the performances make it well worth a look.

Screens:
Saturday, June 2, 9:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

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