Let’s get the Two Distant Strangers ending explained. The Academy Award-nominated short film is now on Netflix, but what is the meaning behind it?
Film fans will be familiar with the time-loop sub-genre and popular examples include Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code, Palm Springs… the list goes on.
However, one of the latest to use the trope is a short film called Two Distant Strangers.
Directed by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, this 30-minute sci-fi drama centres on one man’s attempts to get home to his dog after he is mysteriously made to repeat the same fateful day.
We’re here to get the Two Distant Strangers ending explained and dissect its meaning, but first, let’s recount what happens…
Recounting the plot
Carter James is a black graphic designer living in New York who wakes up in a woman’s home the morning after their first date.
He tells her that he needs to get home to his dog, Jeter, and heads out the door. However, he then encounters a police officer, Merk, who interrogates him about his cigarette, arguing that it doesn’t smell like one.
The officer antagonises Carter until he attempts to walk away and he is heartbreakingly restrained and choked while two of his colleagues help hold him down.
We then cut to Carter waking up in his date’s bed again, establishing that he is now stuck in a time loop, forced to relive that same day.
Although he’s equipped with the knowledge of what will happen once he leaves the apartment, he is unable to save his life, with each new scenario resulting in his death at the hands of armed officers.
After 99 deaths, he confronts the officer and explains the situation to him. Puzzled but accepting, he agrees to drive Carter home himself to ensure his safety. While venturing out to his house, he and the officer discuss policing and racial tensions in America.
The pair get along, but just as Carter’s fate appears to have changed when he approaches the door of his home, Merk claps and refers to Carter’s “noble performance” being his favourite so far.
He then shoots Carter, who wakes up again in his date’s bed. He decides to tell her about the time loop and says that he’ll continue to try and make it home: “Because it don’t matter how long it takes, or how many times it takes, one way or another, I’m getting home to my f**king dog.”
The short then ends with names of black Americans who have died at the hands of police officers.
Netflix: Two Distant Strangers ending explained
As the list of names scrolls down to conclude Two Distant Strangers, it’s emphasised that the time loop device was utilised in order to convey the struggles of many black Americans who unjustly lost their lives at the hands of police officers.
The film communicates to audiences that the fear of being killed by cops is a daily struggle for the black community. Carter is representative of that community, and the scope of the police brutality issue is underlined by having him experience a wide variety of outcomes of racial discrimination.
Although Carter tries 100 different ways to escape being killed by officers, none of his attempts work because it isn’t his behaviour or actions that are the cause. It’s suggested that he isn’t being killed because he does the wrong thing, but because the institution arguably continues to facilitate the killing of black Americans.
When he decides not to leave the house, the police mistake his date’s apartment for that of a criminal’s and he is killed inside, which mirrors a number of cases that the film identifies in its conclusion. The message is clear. You are not safe outside, and you are not safe at home. How long can this go on?
However, the meaning of the ending is this: Carter knows he will be killed again and again, but he simply has no choice but to try and survive.
By ending on this crushing note – yet one not devoid of hope – the filmmakers suggest that this isn’t a problem that Carter, or any victims in such cases for that matter, can fix. He tried everything, but it’s up to those in power to find a solution and spare black lives. They are the only ones truly capable of ensuring no more names are added to the list of victims.
Through sci-fi tropes, Travon and Martin demonstrate that this is a vicious cycle and one which tragically mirrors reality.
Two Distant Strangers is now on Netflix.
In other news, The Powerpuff Girls has received the live-action treatment.