The Storytelling of “San Junipero”

Black Mirror
Black Mirror “San Junipero”

The reason I pick “San Junipero” rather than other Black Mirror episodes is that it is the best one in term of storying telling and movie post-production skills.


Conventional way of storytelling


The conventional way of storytelling follows a basic pattern in which there is a start and then an end. A single timeline directs from the beginning to the end.


Unconventional way of storytelling


However, to make the storytelling intriguing, something is needed to grab audience’s attention, forcing them to look forward to the ending. So many movies and short-films adopt an unconventional way of storytelling. Usually, the film starts in the middle of a story and provide implicit hints for audiences to figure it out what’s happening and what’s the background of the story.

San Junipero does an excellent job of providing implicit hints. When I saw the opening of the movie for the first time, in which Yorkie walks into the bar, I sensed an unusualness that this is not a typical bar, it looks like a dream or something unreal, but I cannot tell why. After watching it for three times, I think I find out the answer is in the movie’s color grading.


Black Mirror “San Junipero”


The movie is carefully color graded to differentiate the scenes from San Junipero and the real world. Let’s look at a screencap. In this screencap, the colors are unusually vibrant, especially the colors of the neons and the overall tone tends to be cold.


San Junipero [Top]; Real World [Down]

However, let’s look at the scenes from the real world. The color tone is more “real” (Neither cold nor warm). The white is exact white, and the colors are just as vibrant as we perceive in real life.


the Matrix: in the matrix [top]; real world [down]

The same color grading method is also adopted in Wachowski brothers’ the Matrix. The color tone of the scenes from the matrix is greener while the color tone of the real world looks more real.


The conversation between Kelly and Wes


Then further hints are provided as the story develops, for example, the conversation between Kelly and Wes.

“The locals? They’re like dead people.”

“A little lively for dead people.”

I am confirmed that the world they are in might not be the real world, but what is it?


The clinic


San Junipero also does an excellent job of explaining the story’s background by bringing the audience back to the real world. There are two timelines in the story: the real world and San Junipero. The explanation takes place in the real world (The conversation between Kelly and Greg). After the audience is well informed of the background information, Kelly and Yorkie’s conflict of choosing to live eternally in San Junipero evolves in San Junipero.


Two Timelines


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