"Who are you?", Murmurs Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o) while her family of four is held hostage in their summer residence on the beach by a family of doubled, wearing the red jumpsuit and armed with gilded scissors of great sharpness. The hoarse response that emerges from the throat of his doppelgänger – "We are Americans" – is one of the many riddles that remain with you after seeing We, the new horror film of author-director Jordan Peele. It's a joke, in a way, though so dark, that it does not cause as much laughter in the moment as suffocation. It is also one of the few explicitly political lines of the film, although its meaning in the context remains difficult to pin down. There are meanings and metaphors everywhere in We, but as an opening title tells us of the thousands of kilometers of tunnels that snake under the surface of the United States, their goal is sometimes unknown.
We in the United States and "us", as his son Jason (Evan Alex) calls it in Adelaide, but there is no allegory to be drawn between the fate of the family and the contemporary political reality. This can create a frustrating viewing experience at the moment, a film whose moral ambiguities and incomplete catharses do not match a known horror pattern. But the unresolved mysteries of We are more exciting than frightening. It's a film that ignites you with questions, a movie you try to explain or that you explained by strangers even before leaving the theater. (I have participated in two of these conversations before arriving in the lobby.)
It's a film that flares up with questions.
Peele's latest film, the genre that reinvents get out, transformed into horror scenarios – kidnapping, mind control, body theft – in proxies of racial violence: the spirit that took over Chris from Daniel Kaluuya was not a demon with closed feet, but the evil of white supremacy itself. We This is less about racism, although the Wilson family is black (and later that their friends at a nearby beach house, a pair of fun drunkards played by Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker, are white). Rather, We speaks of the many other deep divisions separating us from each other and from ourselves: the divisions between the rich and the poor, the wells and the sick, the child himself and the adult, the loved ones and those who are not loved.
In a first flashback, in 1986, a very young Adelaide (Madison Curry) moves away from her father on the promenade of Santa Cruz and enters a haunted house of the carnival where she meets a terrible double: in the room mirrors. but this one seems to be more than a reflection. While adult Adelaide tells her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), she spends her whole life haunted by the feeling that the girl she saw that day is trying to chase her away. Gabe, a sweet-hearted doofus without occult bone in her body, pragmatically notes that she could have talked about it before agreeing to spend a family vacation near the same sidewalk.
From their first day at the beach, Jason is momentarily lost, which increases the anxiety of Adelaide and the public. But is it his unresolved childhood trauma, or is there an objective threat to the safety of the family? This question is answered quickly when the double dressed in red come to the door.
Explanation of WeThe plot should stop around this point to maximize the thrills of this sometimes nauseating hike. But it should be noted that only one of the doubles, Adelaide (identified in the credits as "Red", but never named in the film) is able to speak. When she does, it's a tense and hoarse croak that seems to be coming from the depths of her body, an extraordinary voice that is only one of Nyong'o's wild inventions for the role. She's on screen for almost every scene, playing both her character and her opposite (or is it her deepest intimacy?), And she's not only good but sensational in a performance that allows us to see the monster in the human being and the human being in the monster. As my understanding of the relationship between what Red calls "shadows" and their counterparts in the everyday world grew with the new revelations of history, my admiration for his technically dazzling and complex performance at the time emotional. If you admire his Oscar-winning performance 12 years of slavery and wanted more of her in Black Panther, We will satisfy your Lupita desires and more.
We belongs to Nyong'o, but it is also a beautiful art ensemble, with a first long act devoted to presenting the Wilson family in all its middle class splendor. The children – Jason's older sister, Zora, is played by Shahadi Wright Joseph – are much more than vulnerable bait because kids are getting too much horror movies: they too, though they're different from those of their mother, must face their shadow and learn to destroy them or distance them. (Young actors have to create two very different physiques for their "real" and their shadow in the same way, a task to which they both succeed admirably.) Duke, Shambolic, cracking for dad's jokes, is the source of welcome comic relief in the first half, especially when he proudly shows his family his newly acquired motorboat, a basket of opportunities called "Crawdaddy". But a more recent action sequence, in which Gabe hangs it with his non-verbal counterpart in the boat, is a tour de force of horror, suspense and comedy combined, with playful references to the sea leaks of films from the past. (Cape Fear, Jaws).
Here's the last thing I'm going to say about We, apart from "seeing it": Peele is a born director who cares about the position of the camera, how a scene is lit and recorded, what the suggested props in the corner of the picture suggest. It is a story of double, it plays constantly with reflection and repetition: almost every scene of the first half finds its reminder, or twin, in the second, in a horrible or humorous register. And when the greatest number of twists touch the end of the film, requiring a review of everything that preceded, it moves the moral center of the film in a way that also leaves the viewer unbalanced. We leave the theater seeing the people around us a little differently. Could they be our shadow? Are we theirs? Or are there other shadows, visions of ourselves and our society that we can not or can not let ourselves see? The best horror movies are the ones that make you leave the theater still uncertain.