Unidentified Objects: A deftly made and good-looking sci-fi road movie
Thursday 28 September 2023, by
North America: neon motel signs; lens flares; two unlikely companions embarking on a road trip (he’s uptight and reads Chekhov, she’s into aliens and couldn’t name a single Russian author). Have we all seen this movie before? Yes! And no.
Unidentified Objects is deftly made and good-looking, attempting to merge, if not subvert, generic conventions. While the plot remains on familiar territory the film is elevated into another dimension by Matthew Jeffer’s performance as Peter, a hot, misanthropic, gay little person accompanying his woo-woo neighbour on a road trip to find the aliens that abducted her as a teenager. Funny, sexy and only a little vulnerable, Peter is winsome in the best way, never descending into a stereotype or a victim, while enabling the film to consider what it means to be someone ‘prone to illness’ in a world where the pandemic is barely acknowledged. This is an issue of such little interest to the film industry that the masks he wears are more alien to post- pandemic cinema than the aliens themselves. Rebecca Hay’s performance as Peter’s sex worker neighbour in denim cut-offs also manages to avoid becoming a full-on stereotype, but only just. Roberta Colindrez, who jump starts their car, is magnetic as always.
The film glides along at a brisk pace, with only a few clunky scenes. The surreal sequences are enjoyable and the fantastic score really punches things up. It’s disappointing, however, that even an indie movie with an alien subplot doesn’t take more risks with the sci-fi sequences. While the cyberpunk inspired magenta-pink dreamscapes are eerie and beautiful, they’re nothing new.
All in all, a fun trip that could have been trippier.
The film is currently playing at the Fragments Festival at the Genesis Cinema in London.