From Dutch to Next Exit, I enjoy a good road trip movie. Even moreso when it takes an approach that I have not seen. Unidentified Objects, directed by Juan Felipe Zuleta and written by Zuleta and Leland Frankel, playing at Fantastic Fest, delivers. The story, during the pandemic, follows Peter (Matthew Jeffers), a testy little person offered money by Winona (Sarah Hay), a sex worker determined to keep her date of departure with aliens, who needs his car. Unidentified Objects focuses on the road trip themes of growth and shines as a poignant movie that makes you look inward and upward.
Their meeting does not start off promising since Winona rouses him awake in the early morning. Peter says no initially but changes his mind, agreeing under a few conditions; half the payment upfront, no food or drinks in the car, no parallel parking, and he goes with her. He changed his mind because of the outstanding bills due on his desk and something tied to his friend, Shay. Then, when they pick up the car, they argue with Shay’s brother, Nico, over who owns the vehicle. Winona swipes the car and confesses to Peter that her destination is an alien abduction site, not visiting a sister as she first told him.
In Unidentified Objects It’s Aliens Or Bust
As they travel, the looming question is whether there are aliens. Road trip stories usually start contentious, and it is the same here. Yet, it includes sweet and sad moments. Winona tries to talk with Peter, whose responses move between monosyllabic and rude. Though Winona is adamant aliens are real, Peter does not believe. He struggles enough existing in this world on Earth where being a little person—Peter’s preferred phrasing—and gay leaves you few options. Peter’s anger hides his pain, and Winona’s smiles hide her fear that she is wrong about the aliens. The film keeps you guessing the answer.
Wonderful Road Trip Duo
Both Matthew Jeffers and Sarah Hay give outstanding performances. A movie like this falls flat if the people audiences are on the journey with do not hold their attention. Though the trip is for fantastical purposes—alien rendezvous—the film grounds it with Peter’s viewpoint. You relate to the disbelief and sorrow, especially if society views you as an outsider. Existing in this world is hard enough; smiling in it often asks too much. Fantasy elements come in from Peter’s nightmares and daydreams. The harder life is, the easier it is to escape to our minds and fantasize about a world where we find out home; our people.
The film does not leave viewers with a clear answer, but the beauty of Unidentified Objects is its promise. The music, with its ethereal and mystical sound, adds the perfect journey music. But the music and journey are not just about aliens. Unidentified Objects captures feeling like an alien, an outsider in this world that judges based on appearance, its toll, and the beauty of self-acceptance. The movie takes you on a journey through all the emotions; pain, sadness, and hope. Recommended for people who love stories that focus on characters and living.