Significant Other, written and directed by Robert Olsen and Dan Berk and starring Maika Monroe and Jake Lacy, is a quietly rousing horror film and beyond anything audiences will anticipate, continuously subverting expectations. It's a suspenseful science fiction cocktail with notes of The Thing (1982), What Keeps You Alive (2018), and a comically glaring reference to Terminator 2 (1991) blended to near perfection. While tonally uneven, Olsen and Berk make expert use of the “don’t go into the woods” trope.
The film follows a young couple, Ruth (Monroe) and Harry (Lacy), on a remote and romantic backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest's gorgeous coastal woods, but something sinister lurks within the forest, and their weekend getaway quickly escalates into a waking nightmare. The danger of the forest's dark, wide-open, and unfamiliar landscape drives forward the film’s suspense, while the uncertainty of the couple’s relationship keeps audiences guessing. Significant Other has no shortage of bends in the trail.
Monroe and Lacy deliver excellent performances, each carrying the emotional weight of the narrative with authenticity and emotion. However, their chemistry does not quite meet the same standard. Monroe delivers a layered and understated performance as a woman at times incapacitated by anxiety. Her fear provides audiences with an acute sense of unease. Her portrayal of Ruth balances Lacey's abundantly manic energy and comedic quips. While Lacey is outstanding, the film’s tonal shift to a dark romantic comedy is jarring. His character arc feels out of step, but an enigmatic horror comedy may have been what Berk and Olsen intended.
Ruth and Harry offer an interesting study of the dynamics of the end of a claustrophobic relationship suffering from an imbalance of trust. While they love each other — as evidenced by the film’s events — Ruth appears unable to be vulnerable and open with her partner. A proposal of marriage sends her into a panic. Her chest becomes tight, she’s unable to breathe, and she experiences dizzying anxiety before refusing to marry him, placing their relationship at a crossroads. The unease within their relationship significantly adds to the film’s tense and isolating atmosphere before we uncover more about the creature stalking the couple.
Significant Other doesn’t paint a hopeful picture for Ruth and Harry, but its unique blend of genres makes for a stimulating ride. Matt Mitchell’s cinematography and use of setting were beautiful, adding to the overall alien atmosphere. While the eerie score, composed by Oliver Coates, keeps audiences fully immersed with palpable tension. While the film is enjoyable, audiences should be prepared for a bit of tonal inconsistency, but there are plenty of weird and otherworldly thrills for everyone.