It’s rare that movies surprise me. I am not saying that as a brag or anything; simply that after having seen so many films and television shows, read so many stories, and watched so many plays in my lifetime, I have a general sense of American narrative structure that tends to be right more than wrong. Now, obviously there are stories that purposely obfuscate and shift to stay ahead of the audience, but those tend to be poorly executed to the detriment of the overall product. Thus, whenever a movie manages to surprise and executes that turn or shift without losing the plot, I tend to take notice. Significant Other pulls it off rather masterfully.
Significant Other follows a young couple taking a backpacking trip through the Pacific Northwest. Ruth (Maika Monroe) and Harry (Jake Lacy) seem like any and every other young couple in love. She seems reluctant about spending so much time, and sleeping, outdoors, but is willing to go along because she loves her boyfriend. They joke, have a meal, set up camp, and generally have a good time as the hike progresses. Harry has a specific sight (a rather beautiful cliffside view of the ocean) in mind that he wants to show Ruth. Upon arriving at the sight, Harry reveals his plan and proposes to Ruth ring and all. This causes her to have a panic attack that is relieved when she takes her medication. As one can imagine, this turn of events takes a rather sour note to their trip.
From this point on, I assumed the movie would be more a psychological drama derived from trauma. More A Marriage Story than an outright horror. And, to be fair, it is that for a bit. The audience witnesses, and to an extent can feel, the tension and awkwardness that the couple is now going through. We are left wondering what will become of these two especially being out in the middle of the woods without cellular reception and dealing with the fallout of the rejection. However, about midway through the film there is a turn. Ruth is alone in a cave exploring. She sees something, seemingly screams, and then is seen back at the camp with Harry. She is silent, stoic, almost as though she has disassociated from her body. More surprising is that Ruth has changed her mind concerning marriage and wishes to now accept Harry’s proposal at the location he had previously attempted.
Anyone paying attention knows something is up with Ruth at this point. And, unsurprisingly, she does push Harry over the edge to his end. Yet, there is still roughly half the movie still left, so we expect to see what or who has affected Ruth to make this sudden change. The answer is probably not what 99.99 percent of you would expect. And, I do think you should see this movie because both Monroe and Lacy play their roles, in all the necessary dimensions, so well and play off each other at the right notes. Truly, the twist caught me off guard and I kept watching enthralled to see what was going to happen next.
I don’t know if the eventual end will satisfy everyone, but I found it to be engaging and reinforced the themes discussed in the first half of film without giving an easy answer or resolution. The discussions on love and humanity were also done with a certain level of tact and grace that was appreciated on my end. So, if you are interested in a 90ish minute, technically, horror film in the vein of Watcher and It Follows (starring the same talented actress), recommend watching Significant Other.