Jordan Peel’s “Us” cuts open the biggest fear of an ordinary (black) family

Following the breakout success of his racially charged 2017 directorial debut film Get Out, Jordon Peele produced another intriguing piece of work with his latest horror / thriller, Us. Get Out, produced on a $4.5m (approx. £3.4m) budget saw Peel become the first African-American writer-director to earn $100m (approx. £75.8m) with his debut film. Produced with a $20m (approx. £15.1m) budget, Us also exceeded initial estimates since its release on 22 March 2019, reportedly making $87 (approx. £65.9m) worldwide so far.

However, unlike Get Out, Us is not entirely focussed on race and debunks the historic portrayal of African-Americans in horror films. As the focus of the film, the African-American family are notslaughtered in the opening scenes, which generally happens to black charactersin horror films, and their race is not fundamental to the plot. However, in atime where colourism (they ugly cousin of racism) is being discussed more openly,the depiction of a dark-skinned black family is important.

Lupita Nyong’o who plays the lead character, mother Adelaide Wilson / Red, helped change the perception of beauty standards in Hollywood (and ‘Black Hollywood’ too), with her dark skin and short afro hair. In her first leading performance since winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2014 for 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o delivers a stellar performance playing two diametrically opposed characters (along with the rest of her family co-stars). Usually casting of a black family comprises a light-skinned or mixed-race mother with a darker-skinned father (for example the family of the hit American series Black-ish), as this type of depiction was thought to be more palatable to international audiences. Rarely would you see a non-biographical film on the big screen focused on a darker-skinned black family, especially with the leading woman having the complexion of Nyong’o (although this is not the first time this has happened).  

This film puts the spotlight on allof us – if we look deep enough, we can see ourselves in others we perceive to beweak, strong, disadvantaged or privileged. Usually we focus on ourselves withoutactually watching ourselves. The tethered characters look the same but havebecome what they are because of their circumstances. We can all be victims ofcircumstance, whether we perceive those circumstances to be good, bad orneutral. I guess you can’t have death without religion and the Bible scripturethroughout the film issues a stark warning in a world devoid of faith, to thelead character Adelaide that she can’t keep running from her past.

“Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” Jeremiah 11:11

With a strong performance fromElisabeth Moss, Us also triumphs because of its comedicvalue, intelligent plot sprinkled with suspense and thought-provokinginnuendos. However, the plot can go over your head if you don’t concentrate.Government conspiracies, medical ethics and doppelgängers are intertwined withbrutal murder, although surprisingly, considering it’s set in America there isn’ta gun in sight. Like all good films, there is an unexpected twist at the endwhich further reminds us of Jordan Peele’s genius.

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