Good small-scale science-fiction is hard to find because oftentimes ambitions outstrip abilities. Minor Premise is an exception to that rule, a taut and surreal thriller told with appropriately disorienting visual language and effective lead performances.

Ethan (Sathya Sridharan) is a neuroscientist with daddy issues because he’s got big shoes to fill. During an experiment, Ethan splits his consciousness into 10 fragments — aspects of himself that compete for total primacy of his mind. The catch is that each fragment has six minutes every hour as a “dominant” personality, and no personality remembers the actions of the others. This means primary “intellectual” Ethan has to trap himself inside his house and record his movements so that he can catch up. Most of these are benevolent Ethans; one, though, is not, and seems to be up to no good when he’s awake.

To top it off, if Ethan can’t bring his minds back together in a matter of time, he’ll experience total brain death from the strain of it all. So let’s review: Ethan is split into 10 aspects of himself and gets six minutes per hour to solve a complex algorithm to reunite them all — working against other aspects of himself who make life difficult for him and don’t necessarily agree with his goal. And if he can’t reconcile all of this within a few days, he’s going to die.

It’s a stunning premise, creative and economical. Thanks to Sridharan’s performance as Ethan, each personality feels distinct — except the ones who are better at pretending! Director Eric Schultz (who co-wrote the screenplay with Justin Moretto and Thomas Torrey) keep the scale small. It’s like if M. Night Shyamalan actually understood the potential of his movie Split.

That’s not to say everything about Minor Premise is inherently perfect. There are moments where the reality-splitting between personalities is somewhat confusing. But those are small and fleeting in the face of the thriller being told. I was taken with the premise and performances here. It’s hard to find ambitious science-fiction that also understands the story needed to carry the big idea at the center, and Minor Premise certainly succeeds.