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Inside Out 2022 Review: Unidentified Objects

May 27, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival runs from May 26th to June 5th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

A gay dwarf named Peter (Matthew August Jeffers) is roped into taking his sex worker neighbour Winona (Sarah Hay) on an impromptu road trip from New York to Canada in a bright pink car, so that she can meet with the aliens who first communicated with her as a teenager. This is the premise behind Colombian filmmaker Juan Felipe Zuleta’s solid feature directorial debut Unidentified Objects, and it’s one heck of a logline.

Peter has access to a vehicle, and Winona offers cash that he needs to pay his bills, in exchange for taking her to the “bridge people” who will let her live on their planet. From here, Unidentified Objects plays out as a classic road trip narrative that mixes comedy and drama with some quirky and fantastical touches, and I don’t know if every element of the film works equally well. But, at its heart, Zuleta’s film delivers an unconventional and surprisingly moving story about grief, friendship, and trying to find acceptance in a judgemental world.

Peter’s bitterness and anger at society for constantly making him feel like an outsider due to both his height and sexuality serves as a compelling through-line, and Jeffers, an Off-Broadway actor who has gotten some TV roles and is now making his feature debut, carries the film with an exceptional performance. Jeffers delivers several moments that are designed to break your heart, including a couple of piercing monologues, with the centrepiece being a remarkable interlude in a small town Canadian bar set to Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” For her part, Hay ensures that Winona is a sympathetic figure, instead of just the prototypical eccentric, unstable one.

If Unidentified Objects can feel a bit rough around the edges, and has a reach that occasionally exceeds its grasp, the screenplay by Leland Frankel, who developed the story with Zuleta, has clear affection for its characters. The film takes us on a journey that is almost always interesting and engaging to watch, with a mood that is enhanced by strong music choices and cinematography, and punctuated by scenes like the one in the bar that take us by surprise and show real promise for Zuleta as a filmmaker. It’s an ambitious debut feature that boasts strong performances from its two leads, and offers moments of raw power that leave a lasting impression.

Screenings:

Friday, May 27th – 7:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

The film is also available to stream virtually from May 27th to June 5th across Canada.

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