See You Yesterday (2019)

See You Yesterday
Director: Stefon Bristol
Writer: Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol
Cast: Eden Duncan-Smith, Dante Crichlow, Astro, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Johnathan Nieves, Michael J. Fox
Seen on: 9.5.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, police violence

CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) are working hard for a science fair where they hope to present nothing less than time travel to secure a scholarship for the universities of their choice. But when yet another police shooting hits close to home, CJ is less interested in scholarship than in changing the past and preventing tragedy. But changes can have unforeseen outcomes and getting things right really isn’t easy.

See You Yesterday combines the fun antics of time travel movies (including a Michael J. Fox cameo) with the seriousness of racism, police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a combination that could have gone very wrong – and doesn’t at all. The ending was a bit difficult for me, but I absolutely loved the rest.

The film poster showing CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) with goggles and gadgets, running in front of a giant clock.

See You Yesterday is set in the Black community in Brooklyn – which is already the first great thing about it, as it gives us Science Fiction that is focused on Black teens and their scientific excellence, a thing we rarely get to see in media. The obligatory technobabble was a bit much, but that didn’t really bother me – it’s a staple of the genre after all.

Combining this with the ongoing police violence in the USA that targets Black people above all was really interesting and provides a counterweight and more depth to the otherwise lighthearted film. The mood swings where things go from fun to deadly serious in just a couple of beats are very well executed and leave you with an underlying sense of unease at all times that I (as a white European) can only imagine may echo how Black people (in the poorer neighborhoods at least) move through the world.

CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) in front of their lab/garage.

I have to admit that I very much struggled with the ending that was not only not happy, but also very open. There’s a sense of desperation to it that I would have liked softened – though I do respect the filmmakers’ choice to end on that note. It certainly fits the film and the way tragedy can derail everything.

With the great performances by Duncan-Smith, Crichlow and Astro – and the mentioned really cute cameo by Michael J. Fox – the film has all the right ingredients and brings them together in an emotional film with a sense of humor that has something to say. It’s a pretty good deal, if you ask me.

Calvin (Astro) talking to CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith.

Summarizing: Lovely in a sad way, but also fun somehow.

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