Unidentified Objects // A movie review

TW/CW: This review discusses mental health issues including suicidal ideation. 

Talk to someone now: If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.


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I recently took an impromptu road trip to Colorado with my partner. I love road trips. I can never succinctly or eloquently say why other than to say I love the freedom of being able to just drive and escape whatever it is that’s mentally troubling me. Travel is a great band-aid to my hurt soul and my mental health. It doesn’t cure, and I can’t ever completely escape it, but it’s a wonderful break.

My road trip to Colorado took me through Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Yeah, I’m one of those. I have a fascination with Billy the Kid stemming from many long days at the library as a child and only fostered and encouraged by Emilio Estevez in Young Guns. I have that movie completely memorized, and my sister and I could, at one point, recite the movie line by line to entertain ourselves late at night. 

On my road trip to Colorado last month, we stopped at Roswell after visiting “The Kid’s” grave, and of course, we took a photo in front of the iconic Roswell sign. A tourist destination or trap, however you choose to view it, it evoked more nostalgia from my time living in the public library as a child. I consumed books about UFOs and aliens, amongst other subjects not entirely appropriate for my age. My curiosity was never quite satiated. Looking back, I have ideas why, but that’s a topic for another day as I digress.

To Infinity and Beyond

I’ve always had a fascination with space that’s rather multi-layered. Whether it’s my love of science, my belief at one time in UFOs and alien abductions, or my now depression-induced need to want to belong to something bigger and more significant than my current existence. I feed this otherworldly fascination with media beyond the strictly educational and dive deep into sci-fi movies and books. Sometimes it’s fantastical stories and emotion-laden tales. Other times it’s just a fucking good time where aliens are ripping humans a new one on their quest to eradicate humankind. I don’t care where on the spectrum a sci-fi movie decides to settle; I will probably hand over my money to watch it, no questions asked. 

During our long fragmented drive during this road trip, my partner and I dug deeper into our relationship. This led to further discussions about my wishes post-death. I quite seriously and jokingly shared that when I die, and if it’s an available option, I want my ashes blasted outside of our Earth’s atmosphere into outer space. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I wish I did; I really do. I feel like maybe I’d find comfort in that, especially when my mental health has taken a dark decline. Imagining something outside of this existence and this Earth sounds lovely and peaceful during those times. 

Intersectional Oppression

“An uptight dwarf and his free-spirited, alien-obsessed neighbor hit the road on a border-defying search for their place in the universe.”

This movie came across my radar after that Colorado trip. When I read the tagline for Unidentified Objects, I was excited about a sci-fi driven comedy drama. Yeah, all of it, give it to me. Instead, I was greeted with a much more introspective film than I had imagined. The movie beautifully navigates and combines the stories of two very different individuals who are unfortunately pushed to the outskirts of what would be considered “normal societal standards.” 

Screenwriter Leland Frankel and Director Juan Felipe Zuleta set out to tell the story of an often underrepresented group in society. The character of Peter and his life as a Little Person, along with Matthew Jeffer’s own personal additions and experiences to the character development, draws us into a world many are unfamiliar with. We also see that same attention and insightful awareness given to the character of Winona. Sarah Hay’s background in ballet offers more depth to her character as someone who, in both worlds (fiction and real life), is often subjected to superficial dismissiveness and grueling physical expectations. 

The Outsiders

In Unidentified Objects, I see much of myself in Peter, played by Matthew Jeffers. I also relate closely to Winona, played by Sarah Hay. Their characters have no obvious similarities other than being considered “outsiders” in society. On the surface, I am nothing like the characters in this movie. However, underneath it all, I find myself relating to their struggles, adventures, pain, and growth on a level beyond the superficial. 

When we are introduced to Winona (Sarah Hay), she needs a ride to Canada for a significant, life-changing date. She asks her neighbor, Peter, whom she doesn’t seem to really know other than being neighbors, to take her. Winona exudes light and positivity, a fun personality that sometimes proves too much for the curmudgeon Peter. 

As we join them on their journey to Canada, we learn more about Peter and his depressive state. It would be too easy to feel that Peter’s troubles lie with his condition alone, achondroplasia. However, his struggles extend beyond our dismissive observations. We are more than one thing, after all. As he struggles with a past decision and the loss of his friend, along with his sexuality and the current state of the world living through a worldwide pandemic, I found myself relating to him — the loneliness, regret after losing someone, and trouble finding a partner as someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ in an already marginalized world. 

Winona has a date with alien abduction

While silly on the surface, we learn there’s more to the meet-up than just a ridiculous fantasy. When confronted with her choice of occupation (sex work) outside of the confines of that work, we learn more about her strength and thoughts on life. She offers insightful gems into life in general. One example is with her sex work, where she’s very clear that it is just one aspect of her, and she doesn’t wish to be defined by that one thing. She’s also not ashamed of it. During the journey to meet up for her extraterrestrial trip, we learn that Winona is searching for a connection beyond her current existence. And for her, it lies literally beyond this Earth. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Don’t we all just wish to be a part of something more? Whether in religion, sports, online forums, careers, or hobbies, it’s part of our everyday experience to search for belonging. It’s something that even I, as an extreme introvert, struggle with. As we follow Peter and Winona on their road trip, it’s easy to catch glimpses of ourselves in these two very specific and different characters. 

I struggle daily with my mental health and admit that, unfortunately, I sometimes feel done. At the movie’s conclusion, though, I caught a glimpse of something that left me with a reminder and sense of belonging and connection to something beyond me. Through my tears, it was emotionally satisfying. If I’m lucky, that feeling will continue more often than not. Until that realization of something greater than ourselves manifests itself, be good to each other and remember that we’re all struggling in our own unique ways, and THAT is what actually makes us all basically the same. 

Unidentified Objects premiered at Fantastic Fest. To keep updated on its release and where to watch, or to read more about the film, go to https://unidentifiedobjectsfilm.com

// To read more Fantastic Fest reviews, click here.

// To listen to an interview with director Juan Felipe Zuleta, click here.

Talk to someone now: If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.