After seeing Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning hit Get Out, I was full of anticipation for his next film. I have to admit, I had very high expectations for Us, but the film tries to do so much that it comes across as messy. Don’t get me wrong, Peele is quite the visionary filmmaker. The first two-thirds of Us is full of fascinating tropes, but the film doesn’t seem to come together at the end.
The opening scene takes place in 1986, when the young Adelaide, portrayed by Madison Curry, is at a fair with her parents and goes off wandering alone on the beach. The entire scene is played out like a nightmare as she wanders into a dark playhouse full of mirrors. Lost and alone, Adelaide walks through the maze of mirrors trying to find a way out when she stops to turn around and comes face-to-face with a flesh and bone version of herself.
When we are taken back to the present day, Adelaide, now portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o, is happily married to Gabe (Winston Duke) and has two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). They are currently on vacation at their beach house. In an early scene, Gabe suggests that they actually go to the beach while they are there and the audience can at once feel the mood change. Adelaide is hesitant to go because this is the exact beach where she had her traumatic experience shown in the first scene of the film.
That following night after visiting the beach, a family of doppelgangers shows up in their driveway. Each family member’s double is a “tethered” version of themselves, a version that has been tossed to the side and neglected for years.
The family of doppelgangers are there to kill Adelaide and her family because they want the ability to make their own choices. Every time something happened in Adelaide’s life, her “tethered” self would have to endure it as well. When she got married to the love of her life, her “tethered” version was married off to Gabe’s “tethered” version. So, they want to take control of their own lives.
Nyong’o’s performance of her double captures the audience’s eyes in every scene. Her use of physical, vocal, and emotional acting is incredibly unsettling, and she is able to portray a version of herself that feels unnatural.
Adelaide and her family are now fighting for their lives. At some points, Adelaide has to kill doppelgangers, and every time that happens, you notice a slight change in her. She seems almost to be becoming unnatural herself.
This is a uniquely paced horror. At times, the audience is overwhelmed with the chaos ensuing and at other moments the pace slows down to a crawl to build up more suspense. The movie ends with a predictable twist, but the realization lingers and makes you want to watch the film again. In the mess that Us is, I think it is a movie that needs to be watched over and over in order to catch everything that is going on.