Us is a 2019 American horror drama that not only tries to scare and entertain you but points out the horrors of the society we live in. Like most of Jordan Peele’s films, this one too has an underlying subtext that gives the film its depth. It is often subtly put and left for the audience to interpret. It almost personifies the fears of an average citizen and gives it a physical form literally.
The film opens with a family enjoying together on a boardwalk in Santa Cruz California. The little girl, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) wanders off to a house of mirrors, which is often an attraction at funfairs. What she sees inside scars her for life. She finds her doppelganger inside and runs out immediately. She is traumatized by the very sight of seeing herself. She suffers from PTSD and stops speaking. Her parents visit a therapist who suggests making her involve in activities like dancing or painting which take her mind away from the trauma.
Years later when Adelaide gets married and has two children, she visits the place again with her family. She is skeptical about it but then she wants to cause any hindrance in the excitement level of her family, looking forward to this vacation.
Her husband (Winston Duke) wants to go to the beach but Adelaide is just not ready for facing the past horrors. That sight still haunts her. That whistling sound of trepidation still reverberates in her ears. But again she agrees to it because of her family.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Later that Night
Once they come back from the beach Adelaide tells Gabriel about what happened that fateful night in 1986. For obvious reasons, Gabriel thinks of it as some kind of hallucination that a young brain might have had due to being scared. It pisses Adelaide off as she knows what she saw was not just a figment of imagination.
Just then something strange happens. Their son Jason comes and tells them that there is a family standing in their driveway!!
They go down to find that actually a family of four, just like them, is standing in the dark together, holding hands. Gabriel goes out and asks them to leave. He tries to intimidate them, holding a baseball bat. At that very point, they start coming towards him. He hurries inside the house and closes the door!
The strange family breaks into Adelaide’s and Gabruiel’s house. It is then they realize that they were their doppelgangers. Each one of them looked exactly like them. Slowly they realize that not only for them but there existed a doppelganger for every human being. So all these doppelgangers were living in some tunnels beneath the ground. Almost like a parallel reality that existed beneath the surface. But this parallel reality ceased to be parallel now as they were finding their way into the current reality. They saw on a news channel that not only they were killing the people above the surface but forming a human chain just like the “Hands Across America”, a movement that happened in 1986 in America, to raise funds for the African Nations.
‘Us’ Ending Explained
It is essential to understand the political reference of the film, to get a hang of what exactly is happening. To satiate our capitalist endeavors we have gone too far. Earning wealth is not an issue but doing it by taking advantage and oppressing the weaker sections is not acceptable. The problem is not so much of unequal wealth distribution but of the fact that a conducive environment and equal playing are not given to the oppressed and impoverished. It is also about taking things for granted and wasting resources when we know that there would be people living in a paucity of it.
“The Tethered” is what the doppelgangers are called. In the end, it is revealed that they lived an impoverished life in the tunnels. They never got to see the sunlight and didn’t have normal things that people take for granted. In the end, there is a twist though. When Adelaide had gone in that house of mirrors the doppelganger named Red had pulled her inside and she herself had come into the real world and taken her place. There are many hints given throughout the film to suggest the same. For example, Adelaide has a problem in speaking and expressing just like the “Tethered” have. Also, Josh, her son, has his doubts about the same. He knows deep down that something is off in his mother. In the end, he sees Adelaide killing Red in the tunnel. There is something very ravening about that very action that makes his doubts stronger. He is looking at her in the car when she just turns towards him, smiles, and makes his gut feeling indubitable.
Streaming on Netflix, this film also has a trademark Jordan Peele style which is as effective as his earlier venture, Get Out. Us might not make a political statement as directly and transparently as Get Out, but the underlying satires are as hard-hitting and try to camouflage the horrific reality of our times in an entertaining horror film. Do give it a watch.
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