September 23rd, 20222
MOVIE: UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS
STARRING: MATTHEW JEFFERS, SARAH HAY, KERRY FLANAGAN
DIRECTED BY: JUAN FELIPE ZULETA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Unidentified Objects has a beautiful heart that’s inside a steel shell. The outside is tough to crack, a story about a pair of people on a road trip, brought about because one of them believes they need to show up at a certain location to meet aliens that once abducted her. It’s real. She has the scar to prove it. These are people from opposite worlds, Peter (Matthew Jeffers) is a little person, agoraphobic, bitter, and generally angry at the world. He then meets his neighbor Winona (Sarah Hay), an outgoing spirit, willing to enjoy what life has to offer, but a bit naive in her endless happiness. But Winona is desperate for someone to get her to a designated location in Newfoundland, Canada to meet the aliens, forcing her to seek the help of Peter, hoping to borrow his car, and give him companionship in the trip. There’s a stubborn refusal at first and then with a bit of coercion he agrees. The result is Unidentified Objects, which has two opposites spend time together and what that turns into is a beautiful friendship, in one of the more surprising independent films of 2022, and a final result that’s out of this world.
An interesting factor and a massive credit to director/writer Juan Felipe Zuleta and co-writer Leland Frankel, is that this may have been a Covid-movie but it certainly does not feel like it. It’s a road trip tale and from the starting point to the end we see honesty, growth, and a connection between two people that couldn’t be further from one another. There is a knock on Peter’s door, another knock, and Winona saying, “c’mon, I know you’re in there”. It’s not long before Peter opens, frustrated to the max, but once his neighbor has his attention, she knows that he’s someone that’s just as desperate as he is. She needs a ride and knows he has a car. She’s willing to pay him and that’s enough for Peter to put up with obliging her. The trip, however, is far-fetched, with Winona hoping to meet her alien callers in Canada, and Peter must finally step out of his shell of bitterness.
It’s not that Unidentified Objects is breaking the mold by any stretch. What does exist, however, is two performances that hold up any shortcomings, with Hay and Jeffers dueling back and forth with one another and their superb acting skills. Later on when they take a stop at a hotel, it’s finally the time when Peter wants to let loose, and there is a random man who he catches the eye of…or so he thinks. While he is romancing about a potential fling, Winona is struggling with her own emotional stability, and a brief glimpse of how in life a person is often hanging on by a thread.
The minor complaints that can be made about Unidentified Objects is that it’s lacking in more dramatics. This is a straightforward narrative, dialogue heavy, where the road journey doesn’t feature wild car chases, or hijinx that make us laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. It’s that serious approach to the two characters internal struggles that helps push the narrative along, while asking us to walk in these characters shoes, and maybe believe them for what may see like grand illusions.
The reason Unidentified Objects works is because of the confident direction and writing from Juan Felipe Zuleta, with this being his first feature, and putting together a movie that finds the balance in a narrative. It also helps to have two impressive lead performances and the hope is much more work starts for both Jeffers and Hay. There are even a few characters that pop up along the way- a pair of good samaritans help fix a flat tire- but it ultimately becomes about two people with nothing in common, putting aside any differences, and finding a beautiful friendship out there among the stars.
UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS IS PLAYING AT FANTASTIC FEST FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 23RD @11AM & WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 28TH @5:30PM
Written by: Leo Brady