Vigalondo took what could have been a sci-fi heavy story and turned it into a rather simple yet entertaining film about human relationships.
First of all let’s get something straight, Extraterrestrial does not have any aliens in it. In fact, the only real science fiction in the film is used to keep the characters locked in an apartment from fear of alien invasion. From there the Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo turns the film into a dark romantic comedy that focuses on human relationships and human flaws.
Extraterrestrial begins with the lead character Julio (Julián Villagrán) waking up in an unfamiliar bed. He has no idea where he is but a bra on the floor lets him know that he got lucky after a night of heavy drinking. Soon he finds out that the apartment belongs to a beautiful woman named Julia (Michelle Jenner) as the two shared those awkward-next-morning moments that are typically accompanied by hangovers. With nearly identical names maybe Julio and Julia are meant to be?
As Julio is about to leave her place he notices that his cell phone has no coverage and asks her if he could use her cell phone. Sure enough, Julia’s cell phone lacks reception as well. Being without cell phone reception and internet access is pretty much a crisis in of itself in our modern world. Then he begins to notice how empty the streets are in the busy city, not even a single soul is walking about.
Using the oldest form of technology Julia owned, a radio, the two hear an emergency broadcast telling everyone to stay indoors. Julio glances out the window towards the sky to see a huge alien ship covering the city. Luckily, Julio is an industrial designer so he is able to estimate that the ship is probably around 4 miles wide. The two do what they are told and remain indoors. Being that Julio finds Julia attractive, he has no problem obeying the request.
As night falls Julia is getting tired so she goes to sleep in her room. It appears as if Julio is stuck on the couch in the living room which is an ironic turn of events from the previous night. It is funny how when they were both drunk and did not really know each other they were alright to sleep together but now it is completely opposite. Julio does not seem to mind much because he is not sleepy anyways.
Things begin to get real interesting the next morning and not because of any alien attacks. Julia’s boyfriend Carlos (Raul Cimas) returns home so the two make up a story that Julio blacked out and Julia brought him in to save him. Carlos is a fairly laid back kind of guy, accepts the story and insists that he stays for his own protection.
As if a love triangle was not enough drama for one apartment, the creepy stalker neighbor Angel (Carlos Areces) is invited over, turning it into a love square. I am not exactly sure what the reason is that Angel is invited over, since Carlos despises him because he knows he has a thing for Julia. Angel is an important player in this game though because he knows the secret Julio and Julia are keeping from Carols.
It sure sounds like a synopsis of a soap opera but Extraterrestrial is more of a dark romantic comedy than anything else. The science fiction elements disappeared as quickly as it entered and you start to see what the film is really about, the study of human relationships and how we react in critical and awkward situations. The film is also about how one lie has a snowball effect to more and more lies and lies within lies.
Vigalondo took what could have been a sci-fi heavy story and turned it into a rather simple yet entertaining film about human relationships. Not only that but Vigalondo got us to side with each of the characters in the film despite each one have their own flaws. I went into Extraterrestrial not knowing much about the film and it was completely not what I expected. I believe the film benefited a lot from that.