‘Unidentified Objects’ Review: A Trippy Road-Trip to the Center of Feeling [Fantastic Fest]

Aliens is one of those subjects where everybody has an opinion, but none of them is really valid. There is no definite proof that there is intelligent life out there, but there is also no proof that there isn’t, that we haven’t been visited countless times by our universal neighbors. Everything is conjecture and nothing is defined. The only other thing that can be as easily moldable is a feeling. You got, or don’t, but sometimes there comes a thin line where it is really hard to say what you are actually feeling. Let’s review Unidentified Objects, a new film showing right at Fantastic Fest.

The film is directed by Juan Felipe Zuleta and stars Matthew Jeffers and Sarah Jay. The film tells the story of Peter, a gay little person living in a constant state of fear, and he has basically alienated himself from the rest of humanity because of who he is. However, things get turned on their head when he meets Winona, a woman looking to travel to Canada with the objective of finding the aliens that took her 15 years ago. The aliens are coming, and she needs transportation, so together they begin a fantastic road trip to the country from the north.

Unidentified Objects is one of those diamonds in the rough that you come across from time to time. It is a movie so confident in itself that it doesn’t really want to adhere to any conventions, a movie that opens plot lines and introduces countless interesting characters to never be seen again. And yet, it works, thanks to amazing dialogue and two impressive main performances. This movie does adhere to the tropes that we often see in road trip films, but executes them in ways that feel unique.

The best thing to do to make sure that your story is meaningful and powerful is to have great characters, and thankfully, Unidentified Objects has them in spades. Each of the little encounters the two protagonists have on the road introduces one or two characters that could have a movie on their own. The quality of the characters makes these moments feel real and meaningful when it comes to what the story is trying to say. It isn’t easy, but Zuleta manages to do it.

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Of course, our main characters are what really is important here, and Zuleta and the rest of the team were lucky enough to find two actors that just were able to embody these characters completely. Peter is the first character we get introduced to. He is played by Matthew Jeffers, and he is a very special character. A man of huge intelligence in a small body, one that makes him feel like he doesn’t belong in this world. Peter is also gay, which only compounds his sense of alienation.

Meanwhile, Winona, played by Sarah Hay, seems to be the complete opposite of Peter. Winona presents herself as a free spirit. Someone who is willing to go on an adventure by just thinking about it. Hay is just fabulous in the role. Her energy is infectious, and she is very capable of moving between the serious and the funny with ease. The character really starts making a difference as the film progresses, and you can see how little by little she starts to shatter the armor that Peter has placed upon himself.

And that is the major strength of the film, the interactions between these two characters. There are some really powerful scenes where the character has the chance to let things out. They have the chance to express those complex feelings that are sometimes so hard to put into words. It is all very effective. We might be dealing with the mystery of “are they really going to find aliens at the end of the journey?” but what really matters in the journey itself are the feelings that these two have trapped inside of them.

As such, the plot is nothing to talk about, but each encounter moves things along rather well. However, the ending of the movie might be a turn-off for some people. Zuleta chooses to leave things unresolved, and well, some people might feel unsatisfied by what they are seeing. An ending is always a very important part of a film. It is the last thing people see, and it is also the first thing they might comment about it. Unidentified Objects’ ending is beautiful but incomplete.

Alongside the superb acting, the cinematography is also quite solid. The journey gets us trapped for the most part of the highway, but things never get particularly boring, and each new location is shot very well. You can really feel that things are moving along and that we are just getting away from civilization with each passing second.

Unidentified Objects is a charming little film that might have set a bit too much to resolve with its original premise. However, for those of us who got entrapped by the charm of its characters, the ending is enough to make you feel that some things did have an ending. When dealing with feelings, everything is very muddled and abstract, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

SCORE: 8/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.