If you have any interest in watching Significant Other, and you should, come into this movie knowing nothing about it. Significant Other deftly mixes genres and is worth a watch. Though, the flawed execution of the film results in only a light recommendation from me. There will be mild spoilers throughout the rest of the main review and full spoilers in the Spoilers section.
A seemingly happy couple, Ruth (Maika Monroe) and Harry (Jake Lacy) head out on a camping trip. Though, as the film continues, we find out that Ruth is a troubled soul and suffers panic attacks. She is also dealing with commitment issues based on her past. Jack presents the façade of a happy-go-lucky guy, but he turns out to be a controlling man with a need to “help” Ruth. As the two hike and camp in the forest, an external force changes their relationship.
Maika Monroe is again playing the role of a troubled woman who is being “helped” by a man who thinks he knows better of things than her – much like the character she played in her recent film Watcher. Monroe’s performance is good, but because I just recently watched Watcher, it did not feel unique. That’s not to say she is bad in Significant Other, she’s actually fantastic, but the standout performance in Significant Other is from Jake Lacy.
I questioned Jake Lacy’s casting during the first two reels of the film, but as the movie barreled into the last reel, it turns out casting him as Harry was brilliant. At first he seems miscast because he is a goofy dude in a serious film, but when the movie starts to mix genres and tones, his contributions are much appreciated and elevates the movie. He masterfully straddles the borders between each genre that was tossed at his character.
The cinematography by Matt Mitchell is beautiful and there are times when the images presented by Mitchell deserved to be on the big screen. The framing, focus and scale of some of the shots are robbed of their impact by being streamed to TV, phone, computer and tablet screens.
The score by Oliver Coates with the vocals and creepy themes are completely off kilter and perfect for the movie. The score resides in the background, as it should, and adds so much atmosphere to the movie. The score drives the constant feeling of dread that coats the movie.
Mixing genres is difficult, so when it is done right, we get something wonderful like Significant Other. There’s a weird and strangely well-balanced mix of horror, sci-fi, psychological thriller and, to my surprise, humor. It sounds weird, but it all works well.
Significant Other would have been more impactful as a 45-minute episode in a TV anthology series rather than a 83-minute movie. There were stretches in the movie when slow burn felt more like padding. The first half of the film takes too long to setup the twist – especially given the opening frames of the movie which basically give away what will happen. But, when the twist happens… Well more of that in the Spoilers section.
Significant Other generates a palpable amount of dread throughout the movie from the acting, the visuals and the underlying music; and it was great for most of its run time. Ultimately though, it fails to truly stick the landing and leaves the audience with an ending that was barely satisfactory. Some times less is truly more and here with Significant Other, had the filmmakers realized that, it would have made this a superior movie if they had left the ending of the movie more ambiguous.
Watched at home, streamed in Paramount+.
I wonder about the significance of the color red in the movie. The Red Ridge, the Red Star and the Red Jeep were all examples. Maybe it was just me.
The twist was good, it caught me completely off guard. I really thought it was Ruth who was the alien. By having Harry be the one who was reborn as the alien was a great twist. Having Harry deal with love was even better.
I knew the filmmakers were setting up Ruth’s panic attacks for something and when that came to be, it wasn’t as good as it could have. Harry and love was worth it; Ruth and panic attack was not. The use of Ruth’s panic attacks when there was an Alien Ruth felt contrived because by the end of the movie when it was clear the aliens were already coming to Earth, the movie could have easily been of the Real Ruth dying and the Alien Ruth driving out of the forest. Or leave it ambiguous by showing A Ruth leaving the forest, but not specifying which one – and letting the audience mull over which one really escaped.
The last frames of the movie were completely unnecessary and really proves that less is more when it comes to storytelling. Did we really need to see more aliens arriving? No. It would have been great to leave that to the audience’s imagination: When will more come? Are they really coming?