It’d be easy to look at a movie like “Significant Other,” currently streaming on Paramount+, as another quiet relationship drama between two people loaded with emotional baggage and who embark on a woefully ill-advised trip that tests their love to the limit … if it weren’t for that inauspicious meteor streaking overhead in the opening scene, indicating a downright fantastical twist.
In some ways, knowing right away that there’s something sci-fi afoot in this otherwise meditative tone poem almost does the film a disservice. Think of how, ideally, we wouldn’t have even known that this year’s “Prey” was a stealth “Predator” prequel and instead experienced the surprise of a lifetime when that grounded, simple story of a young Comanche woman suddenly turned into a fight for survival with one of the most famous sci-fi villains of all time. While the stakes aren’t quite as high in “Significant Other,” writer/director duo Dan Berk and Robert Olsen manage to make this work by maintaining an impressive focus on the central relationship of the story — even as they have their cake and eat it, too, with constant foreboding teases of a mysterious entity in the woods haunting their every step.
In actuality, the film feels like the second in a hypothetical trilogy of movies (after “Watcher,” which I wrote about in a previous installment of this column) where actor Maika Monroe portrays someone placed in extreme circumstances to fully push her relationship with a significant other (hint, hint!) to the breaking point. Part introspective drama, part unnerving thriller, and part otherworldly fable along the lines of “Men” or “Annihilation,” “Significant Other” tackles fascinating ideas about love, anxiety, and whether our past will always dictate our future. The answers it comes up with may surprise you.