Two Distant Strangers is a Netflix Time Loop Story about just making it home safely
Two Distant Strangers is an Oscar winning Netflix short written by Travon Free and co-Directed by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe. It stars Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott aka rapper Joey Badass as Carter James, a cartoonist.
I have never really been a fan of shorts as they by their very nature don’t give me enough to get my teeth into and don’t always get their point across due to the time constraints. So, I was quite surprised to have really liked Two Distant Strangers. This short make uses one of the most popular film tropes of the last year, the time loop, to tackle a serious, socially relevant topic in an interesting way. Carter is a comic book artist who has the good fortune of meeting and going home with a beautiful young lady, Perri played by Zaria.
By all appearances, he seems to have had a perfect day. The ‘loop’ begins when he tries to leave and get home to feed his dog in the morning. Every time he leaves the building, he has a confrontation with patrolling police officer ‘Merk’ (Andrew Howard) which always ends under either negative or tragic circumstances.
Two Distant Strangers is a short film with an agenda and message it wears proudly on its sleeve. Its intention is to highlight the overuse of force by law enforcement which have often ended in unnecessary deaths. While the subject matter may turn those off not wishing to engage with this subject matter in their ‘entertainment time’, I would strongly advise against prejudging it. Yes, it is an emotive subject that can make uncomfortable viewing, but Two Distant Strangers handles this situation more like a fascinating life puzzle. The hero has an unlimited number of attempts to figure out a way around this police officer and avoid getting killed on his way home.
When there is a case of a person dying in police custody, there are those in society who often say “if only the person had complied…” or “if only they didn’t… “. This film toys with that idea and takes it to its extreme using the time loop to show there is nothing Carter can change to avoid the confrontation with officer Merk, as the officers prejudicial view of the world never shifts.
As a fan of time travel/time loop stories, I really enjoyed this. Despite the serious subject matter, I found it very entertaining to watch. Having something as simple as just getting home to feed your dog, made it more relatable and could be seen as a metaphor for how performing the same menial tasks can have distinct levels of difficulty based on societal prejudices and perceptions.
Related: Interested in more time loop stories? Read the review for Adam Samberg’s Palm Springs here
I was initially concerned when I realised the lead actor was rapper Joey Badass as despite their best efforts, rappers aren’t well known for their acting ability. But Joey Badass put in a solid, layered and occasionally charming performance and really held the film together. I can see him being considered for more parts in feature length films in the future. Overall, this a quality short film, both interesting and engaging. It doesn’t waste any of its 32min runtime with the pseudoscience of how the loop is occurring and focuses purely on the relationships and interactions of its characters, all the while maintaining its core message.
Some will feel uncomfortable with what they perceive as an ‘anti police’ sentiment, but no attempt is made to show this as a broader problem as no other officers are featured or behave in this manner. This is Carter’s personal experience with Officer Merk. Not every black person has had negative run ins with the police or experienced police brutality. But there are some who have that experience regularly, often with the same officers policing their neighbourhoods and for them, every police interaction can seem like a nightmare time loop they can’t escape from.
Two Distant Strangers is available now on Netflix