Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Nacho Vigalondo’s sophomore directorial effort unspooled at this year’s annual Toronto International Film Festival to a mixed audience reaction. The director has already proved himself a talent after his smart low budget time-travel debut, Timecrimes, but Extraterrestrial is a different beast, an idiosyncratic romantic comedy that masquerades as a sci-fi alien invasion flick. Unfortunately, Extraterrestrial falls victim to a misleading advertising campaign, from its teaser trailer, poster and even its plot synopsis. Still, the filmmaker shouldn’t be faulted for the studio’s marketing decision. The bottom line is Vigalondo continues to sharpen his skill in not only merging genres but also directing a pic that gleams with spunk and a wicked sense of humour. Comedy is the hardest genre to tackle, but the director, along with his fabulous cast (consisting of only five actors), succeed in spades. Extraterrestrial might not be cluttered with grand action set pieces, thrills or violence, but it’s still very funny and extremely charming.
For those hoping to see aliens in this film, I can tell you right now that you won’t. Apart from one UFO hovering amidst the skyline, the film contains no other science fiction elements. The alien invasion is simply a device to keep the four characters confined to one location while shedding light on some of the less vivacious aspects of human attraction. Think Garreth Edward’s 2010 hit Monsters, only in place of a road movie, Extraterrestrial maintains a claustrophobic atmosphere situating itself entirely in and around an apartment complex. As the narrative unfolds, the spaceships remains immobile, the neighbourhood vacant, but the tension in the love triangle gradually increases. Vigalondo utilizes his environment wisely, directs his cast with confidence and delivers a a better-than-average feature by a filmmaker who merits watching. This is a story about love, jealousy and betrayal, told with a naturalistic style. In the end the film is really about how people and couples alienate themselves – not special effects or otherworldly creatures.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to the 18th. Tickets, schedules, and other information can be found on the festival’s website.