Ultimate World Image

Ultimate World

By Andrew Stover | September 14, 2022

Entwining deadpan comedy with grounded drama and elements of surrealism, Ultimate World is a madcap yet undeniably bloated adventure of inner and outer discovery. As the writers and directors of this strange hybrid of a movie, Nathaniel Hendricks and Spencer Lucas occasionally find themselves biting off more than they can chew. Nonetheless, this is an audacious comedy of pure indie spirit.

Phoebe (Elyana Barrera) and Teddy (Zach Desutter) have recently broken up. Be that as it may, they decide to live together for the remainder of their lease. Despite being broken up, Phoebe and Teddy co-exist just fine under the same roof. Phoebe’s looking for a new place to stay, while Teddy has his friend Pigeon take photos of him for his dating profile.

Still, the pair get together to host a cookout, and only Pigeon (Doug Heinz) and Victoria (Ciara Peacock) come. After the party, a visibly distressed Phoebe agrees to drive them home. Sensing Phoebe is in distress, Victoria advises her to go to an arcade bathroom and call a phone number plastered on the stall’s wall. In what seems to be a confusing and depressing time in her life, Phoebe appears to be going through the motions, seeking connections with people and places she doesn’t know all that well.

Ultimate World is deliberately zany and dry, following two taciturn characters as they clumsily venture through ethereal spaces populated with eccentric side characters. Teddy talks to a sapient old man living in his closet, which is one of the first surreal scenes that perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come. However, some scenes drag on. At one point, Phoebe is in the woods with an unusual character. The sequence fosters more intrigue for the character initially, but it quickly runs out of steam.

Despite being broken up, Phoebe and Teddy co-exist just fine under the same roof.”

With that said, when the film is more transparent in its intent and comedy it truly finds its footing. Teddy finds romance again and revels in a dreamy, tongue-in-cheek love montage. Phoebe goes to a house party and obviously feels out of place in a cringe-worthy yet modestly doleful sequence. With good comedic timing, the side characters are a diverting bunch with showy personalities, which juxtaposes nicely with Phoebe and Teddy’s weary, irascible, and tight-lipped nature. But because there is a host of kooky characters and hallucinatory visuals, the mystery behind the mysterious phone number is a rather elusive plot thread that never materializes.

Having a complete grasp on lighting, composition, and tone, Ultimate World captivates with technical craft alone. Cinematographer Jackson Warner Lewis yields memorable spinning shots and immaculately captures hypnotic spaces infused with darkness or stark red lighting. In times of contemplation, the camera is static, peering through doorways or behind objects to imitate the presence of a passive observer.

In the central role, Elyana Barrera is exceptional, offering expressive glances and movements that speak to an underlying pain and desperation. A capable Zach Desutter plays opposite to Barrera in a solid performance; how he moves and behaves is much less refined, which corresponds to Teddy’s personality.

Through the meshing of the absurd and the profound, Hendricks and Lucas intentionally complicate a rather somber and relatable tale of seeking meaningful connections and pursuits in hopes of finding one’s next step in life. Ultimate World is an effectively awkward, surreal comedy with a bittersweet propensity to meander from any fixed route, making this journey all the more spellbinding.

For screening information, visit the Ultimate World official website.

Ultimate World (2022)

Directed and Written: Nathaniel Hendricks, Spencer Lucas

Starring: Elyana Barrera, Zach Desutter, Ciara Peacock, Les Best, Vanessa Gonzalez, Doug Heinz, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Ultimate World Image

"…an effectively awkward, surreal comedy..."

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