“Ever wake up from a dream and it feels like you’re still dreaming?” Winona asks Peter early on Unidentified Objects, a cosmic new film from Juan Felipe Zuleta. A lot of films about aliens or focus on otherworldly beings, but Unidentified Objects is a deep exploration of grief accepting the help from those you least suspect, and it’s grounded by two spectacular performances from Sarah Hay and Matthew Jeffers.
Jeffers’ Peter wants to be left alone, but Hay’s Winona won’t stop banging on his door. These two have never met even though they live in the same building, but she knows that he has access to a car when she needs it most. She tells him that needs to get to her sister in Canada, but she really needs to cross the border in order to meet up with the aliens that previously abducted her. Since Peter has consistent income at the moment, he reluctantly accepts to travel with Winona with his Anton Chekhov book and an arsenal of angry barbs.
Peter has many rules for their journey, and Unidentified Objects could’ve been a simple entry into the Odd Couple canon. Zuleta’s film is deeper than that. There is a lovable, manic energy to Hay’s Winona. She is open to life’s experiences, but she does what she needs to do in order to get by. As Peter, Jeffers is filled with anger and regret over the recent death of his friend Shay (she is the actual owner of the pink vehicle they are using), and he doesn’t hold back on saying hurtful things to anyone–whether it be Winona or a server at a restaurant. It’s thrilling to see both of these actors play different kinds of people who seem like they have nothing to lose. What keeps pulling us in is seeing how both characters realize that they can course correct their lives. In one painful argument, Peter tells Winona, “We do not fit…we are mistakes.”
Zuleta refrains from making this road trip film feel episodic or stunted (like so many are), and the film never pokes fun at its characters. There are bursts of neon purples and pinks that jolt our senses throughout. It’s wonderfully paced and never feels like a cliché.
Peter and Winona can learn from one another because they are so different and think they want such different things. Sometimes the people most opposite from ourselves can lead to the biggest revelations. Whether they come from the sky or they are sitting next to you on a long car ride.