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Review 'Unidentified Objects': Two Lonely Souls in Search of Being and Belonging

'Unidentified Objects' offers an unforgettable journey of two marginalized characters in search of their place in the world. This fantastic road movie challenges conventions.

Two marginalized individuals, a grumpy gay dwarf and a sex worker, cross paths one day to embark on a road trip that will lead them to a close encounter of the third kind. Directed by Colombian filmmaker Juan Felipe Zuleta and written by Leland Frankel, this film has participated in over 50 international festivals, accumulating more than 20 awards. Using the codes of fantasy cinema, Zuleta directs an original and rewarding story about lonely characters seeking a place to fit in.

Peter is a gay dwarf who has lost faith in the world. Struggling to find work and constantly avoiding people to avoid mockery for his physical and sexual conditions, he has chosen to isolate himself in his apartment in New York. Among his neighbors is Winona Jordan, a sex worker who, unlike him, avoids self-pity at all costs. She bursts into his life desperately asking to rent his pink truck to meet extraterrestrial beings. She must reach a fixed point at a specific time. For obvious reasons, he is not willing to comply with the request, but he has several needs: the need for money, not to neglect his peculiar car due to the sentimental value attached to it, and the need for a turning point to emerge from his cave. So, despite his disbelief, he agrees to rent the truck with the condition that he can join the journey.

It is inevitable not to think that the name of this free-spirited, joyful, spontaneous, and rebellious protagonist is perhaps a nod to the iconic actress of the nineties, Winona Ryder, and some of her characters with disobedient, complex, misfit, or determined traits, such as Dinky (Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael), Susan (Girl, Interrupted), Corky (Night on Earth), or Lydia (Beetlejuice).

During this road trip, we discover the motivations of both characters to venture into the unknown and gradually reveal their wounds, unveiling the essence of this unique story. In Peter's case, there are wounds with his best friend, with bullying, and the fears of not being able to be loved as he is. In Winona's case, there is the stigma of her occupation. Both are outsiders, not by choice but by necessity. And being outsiders functions as a metaphor for immigrants, exclusion, and the struggle they undertake to earn a space.

As the film evolves, this nostalgic drama, which also dabbles in dark comedy, increasingly uses the codes of fantasy cinema to express the liberating process that this journey represents for them, with several memorable scenes (the police search scene is unforgettable), creating hypnotic atmospheres and a sense of strangeness reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch's characters. The film is also aided by a great soundtrack that serves to highlight either the internal world of its protagonists or the magic and cosmic energy that permeates the movie. Various characters they encounter along the way contribute to reconciling them with their surroundings and, above all, with their inner selves.

There are many virtues in what Juan Felipe Zuleta narrates and how he narrates it, reminding us that despite arriving alone on the planet and the decision of some to live alone, there is an inherent human need to seek companionship and to feel rooted, to be and to belong. 'Unidentified Objects' also speaks about the search for opportunity and to be loved. The two protagonists, Matthew Jeffers and Sarah Hay, deliver fantastic performances.

The film is still showing in theaters in Colombia, in spaces such as the Cinemateca de Bogotá and the MAMM de Medellín.

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