“Us” and the Secrets We Leave Behind For Better Future

By DeAndre Washington, Staff Writer


And here we are, on the ride back to campus after seeing “Us”: the latest film from the mind of Jordan Peele. All bodies in the car debate about the meaning of the movie, music is playing, and then there’s me — quiet at 2:45 am with my own thoughts about the movie and how we redefine our identities in an effort to forget another.

The movie follows the Wilson family of four lead by Adelaide Wilson; returning to the beachfront that shaped the person she grew up to be. With hopes to show her family a familiar place in her childhood, Adelaide and her family soon find themselves fighting for their lives against their doppelgängers.

The plot thickens when the Wilson family discovers that the entire world is filled with doppelgängers sent out to kill their original selves in an effort to form a massive human hand to hand link amongst themselves. The human link would soon be known as Hands Across America —  an initiative that started in 1986 to promote the end of hunger and homelessness in America.

Given that it was a failed experiment, the doppelgängers were kept hidden by the government until a younger Adelaide — while on a beach trip with her parents, ends up finding her own doppelgänger at the funhouse hall of mirrors. It isn’t obvious until later on in the film that Adelaide didn’t actually leave that funhouse back in 1986. It was Adelaide’s doppelgänger that switched places with her in an effort to have a life she knew wouldn’t be possible had she remained complacent and hidden away.

Lupita Nyong’o sets the stage as both protagonist and antagonist as she faces herself. The beautifully jarring part about this aspect of the story lies in that you don’t know who’s more justified in their actions. There’s Adelaide, a woman that must make quick decisions in order to protect her family. And then there’s Red, the mirrored image of Adelaide committed to reminding Adelaide —  and viewers that you can’t hide who you really are when facing yourself.

This isn’t to spoil or disrupt the confusion some may have about what we all saw or will come to see in this movie. But this is to say a large part of the film left me wondering how we hide our former selves more often than not to recreate who we are. How the mind warps itself to forget our past to make sure the unknown waters we dive into remain still.

Jordan Peele started a conversation that he chooses not to join in on. It isn’t his job to tell us what “Us” is about. And in saying that I mean that Jordan Peele can’t talk to us about ourselves and our pasts given that we’re the only ones who know them. We’re the only ones who have to face the reflection at the end of it all. How the mirror cracks depends on how much we are taken aback at the sight of our own image(s).

Lupita Nyong’o faces herself in Jordan Peele’s new film “Us”. // Courtesy of Universal Studios.

Throughout the course of the movie, Adelaide’s character develop similar traits to that of the doppelgängers. And those moments lead me to the same fear the son had when staring at his mother. Did I witness a woman protecting her family from themselves? Or did I just witness a woman trying to get hold of a life stolen from her before she got to live it?

Yes, this film is amazing. But only if you allow yourself time to process what you see. And don’t go see this film fetishizing about if this is an authentic horror film because then you’ll miss the joy of a good horror movie.

The biggest takeaway from this film is that there are answers to the questions we leave having. But it’s more important to form dialogue and build what you believe is the point to the madness that goes on. Once that happens, your answers will follow suit.

We selectively choose to share ourselves with the next person. In some way this selectivity comes out of protection — but from who? I’m not sure if Jordan Peele wants us to accept what was and move on or face the reality that I am who I am. No matter how much we reconsider the possibility of a new life, the one we try to forget about lingers in wait to remind us that there isn’t a new life without accepting the one you run away from.