See You Yesterday – review (Netflix)

    Claudette ‘CJ’ Walker (Edna Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian J Thomas (Dante Crichlow) are best friends and science geniuses. They are both at the Bronx Science School and, with the summer holidays coming, are hoping to win a Science expo that is coming up in a weeks time. 

   CJ, though a genius and analytical thinker, is a bit of a hothead and prone to flying off the handle. When she runs into Jared (Rayshawn Richardson), her ex-boyfriend, in the local corner store, they get into an altercation and her brother, Calvin (Astro), steps in to protect her. 

   CJ and Sebastian are working on a temporal relocation experiment – time travel. They plan to go back one day and have created a backpack that can, in theory, create a portal to the past. After they trial the experiment for the second time, the first having failed, it works and they find themselves back to the day before. 

    Excited by their success, the two go back to the store where they saw Jared. Sebastian warns CJ about avoiding bumping into their past selves. Unfortunately, when CJ sees Jared again, she douses him with a slushy. In the resulting confusion, Jared ends up fighting with a confused CJ from the day before. Calvin intervenes again. CJ, the one who has travelled back, douses Jared with another slushy. He chases after her and gets hit by a car. They go back to their proper timeline. Sebastian is frustrated by CJ’s ignoring the possible consequences of messing with the timeline.

    The next day, Calvin is at a summer cookout with his homie. They leave and Calvin gets shot and killed by the police in a case of mistaken identity. A distraught CJ works out how to power the backpacks so as they can go back further in time. The manage to go back further, but their plan to save Calvin is messed up by them encountering Jared and not having enough time to get to Calvin. They are too late to get to him and he is killed again. 

    They return to their own timeline and decide to jump back again. This time they plan to prevent the robbery that precipitated the events that lead up to Calvin’s death. CJ decides to go and warn Carlito (Carlos Arce Jr), the store owner, that he is about to get robbed. Sebastian in that timeline sees CJ and in the confusion, gets shot and killed. The Sebastian that CJ jumped back with fades away. 

    CJ jumps back and attends Sebastian’s funeral. Calvin is still alive. He finds the funeral notice from his own funeral that happened before the first jump. He makes CJ explain everything to him. CJ gets the help of Eduardo (Johnathan Nieves), another super smart student, to build another backpack. 

    She jumps back again and tries to save everybody. Though she saves Sebastian, she is unable to save Calvin. Back in the proper timeline, Sebastian realises that something did not go right and asks CJ for an explanation. She tells him what happened. He says that they cannot jump back anymore. CJ agrees but then traps herself in the garage where they conduct their experiments and jumps back again. The end. 

    Written by Fredrica Bailey and Stefon Bristol, See You Yesterday is an interesting idea not particularly well executed. At only an hour and twenty minutes, it is a relatively short film, but it is told in such a laborious fashion that it seems to drag in parts. 

    Caught between serious drama, sci-fi and comedy, the film does not serve any of the genres particularly well. There are large swathes of the script taken up with an explanation on the workings of the time travel backpacks, information that adds nothing at all to the film. The popular and much used, ‘don’t mess with the timeline’ trope is utilised to good-ish effect in this film, though some of the story is more plot convenience than creative storytelling. 

    The acting in the film and the casting are very good. Unfortunately, only a few of the characters are written above caricature level, the rest mostly filling the roles of recognisable, even for a black person from the UK such as myself, stereotypes. 

    The directing, by one of the writers, Stefon Bristol, is just okay. There is a bit of filler stuff, the almost seventies like effects for the time jump sequences and the trying too hard to be emotive slo-mo as the kids are accosted by the police officers near the end of the film. The rest is just serviceable. The film is beautifully shot, however. 

    The film tries to broach some serious subjects; education, police murdering young black men, black community and ambition. Regrettably, it does not serve any of the subjects at all well. The film goes for visual punch, emotional and spectacle, over story. 

    I was really looking forward to See You Yesterday, as the concept and premise is quite interesting. Disappointingly, it does not deliver. See You Yesterday is not one to watch tomorrow or any other day. 


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