Us: The Search for Self in Human Nature

Media by Shubin Ma

Jordan Peele‘s Get Out was nominated for four Oscars in 2018, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor. The first trailer for Peele’s latest film, Us, was another excellent film that was able to bring the thriller genre to life, giving the audience a truly immersive sense of horror.

Us is a 2019 American horror film written and directed by Peele. The film stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker, and follows a family who is confronted by their dopplegangers.

Source: Monkeypaw Productions

There is no mystery in the story of Us, which quickly gets you to the dreaded “killer” from the beginning of the movie. It is layered, with each shot like a puzzle or hint, and if one of them is lost, the whole picture is no longer complete.

The film begins with a little girl who goes to a carnival with her parents on her birthday. She is then attracted by a fantasy house on the beach. After entering the house, she finds a world full of mirrors. To make matters worse, she finds herself with her back to herself at the end of the house.

The story then flashes back to the present. The little girl grows up and has her own family. Because of the past incident, Adelaide is particularly worried about her two children and she does not want to repeat history and lose them. Strange things begin to happen when the family goes back to the beach on their vacation. After spending a day with their friends, Adelaide becomes increasingly unable to recover from the pain of the past and feels more certain that her family is headed for disaster.

First, when the younger son goes to the bathroom, he comes out on the deserted beach and sees a man in red clothes with his hands dripping with blood, standing alone on the sand with his arms outstretched. Later that night, the family sees four people in red standing hand-in-hand in the driveway outside their house. The four people that invade Adelaide’s house are “shadows” that look the exact same as their family.

Are they clones, or were Adelaide’s family just seeing things? However, the “shadows” want to kill Adelaide’s family. The four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival.

Source: Monkeypaw Productions

The movie’s narrative is slow and it brews out every detail. Because of its allegorical nature, the characters and plot in the movie all have referential and deep implied meanings. However, as emphasized by the director, Us is a fable, which is a story about “duality.” It has a self-constructed duality. Us is both the literal translation of “we” and the United States. When the shadows come and Adelaide asks who they are, they say, “We are also Americans.”

They are substitutes for government experiments, like the rabbits in a cage at the beginning of the movie, who were born in an underground world similar to a prison. Since they are not regarded as soulful beings, they can only miserably eat raw rabbits with blood and imitate their look-alike hosts under them like wandering souls. They have no facial expressions, their movements are stiff, and they are like a group of animals that have not fully evolved and can only whine, unable to speak or communicate.

In the end, through the continuous switching between the two worlds above and below ground, the director lets us see this gradually presented binary world, and the different lives in it. People on the ground talk about love, playing and living in the beach playground as if the kingdom of heaven exists. They were rich and content and at peace with each other. The underground world is dark, like purgatory after the end of time.

Source: Monkeypaw Productions

The story of Us is about the issues of socioeconomic class, along with the systematic power of American society and ethnic issues. The world on Earth looks bright, but infighting, as if the image of American society: happy, rich, and ignorant. The film has inspired the exploration of the human self. Let us think highly of deep emotions such as sadness and sensitivity.

Us – Official Trailer. By Universal Pictures.

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