‘Two Distant Strangers’ on Netflix Is a Time Loop Story With a Powerful Twist

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Two Distant Strangers on Netflix—which began streaming today—is a time-loop story. But it isn’t the kind of time loop story where the protagonist learns how to love, like Groundhog Day or Palm Springs. Nor is it the kind of time loop story where the protagonist figures out how to “win,” like the recent Frank Grillo action thriller on Hulu, Boss LevelNo, Two Distant Strangers uses its time loop for something more urgent and powerful: to demonstrate that, no matter what Black people do—no matter how they alter their behavior—they are powerless to stop the police from killing them.

The 32-minute short film is nominated for an Oscar in the Live Action Short Film category, and was acquired by Netflix earlier this month. Written by Emmy-winning comedian Travon Free (The Daily Show,  Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), who also co-directed with Martin Desmond Roe (Breaking2), the short tells the story of a man named Carter James (played by rapper Joey Bada$$), who is trying to get home to walk his dog after spending the night with a date (Zaria). But as soon as Carter leaves the apartment building of the girl he spent the night with, he is confronted by an aggressive white police officer (Andrew Howard) who accuses him of dealing drugs and attempts to perform an illegal search of his belongings.

That first time, Carter resists, and things escalate quickly. The officer gets him in a headlock and chokes the life out of him. Carter gasps “I can’t breathe,” the last words of Eric Garner, the real-life 43-year-old Black man who was killed after an NYPD officer put him in a chokehold in 2014. When Carter opts not to go downstairs at all, the police raid the apartment, shooting and killing Carter for holding a “knife.” (He was holding a whisk.) After, we learn the police had the wrong apartment—echoing the killing of Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in her own home after they forced entry into her apartment as part of a drug deal investigation. Another time, Carter is shot after the police mistake him for the two young Black kids they were pursuing. And on and on it goes.

I won’t spoil the film’s ending, but those who insist that human connection is the key to this issue may be in for a surprise. In just half an hour, Two Distant Strangers offers a poignant and moving commentary on racial justice and police brutality. It’s no wonder it’s nominated for an Oscar. And now, thanks to Netflix, anyone can watch it at home—so get streaming.

Watch Two Distant Strangers on Netflix

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