See You Yesterday - Film Review
In Three Words: Refreshing, "Realistic", STEM (Yes, I'm counting that as one word. Get OFF me!)
So I will admit, this was a film that I initially decided to see simply because of the hype around it. Didn't see a trailer, just saw that it was produced by Spike Lee, the director & co-writer Stefon Bristol is a direct student under Spike and all the publications of relevance were gassing it up and I got caught up in it.
Let's be real, there haven't been many films like this... No, I'm obviously not talking about Time Travel films, the biggest film of recent memory is basically a Time Travel film. I'm talking about two smart as hell black kids in New York, creating two time machines via their BACKPACKS and using it several times. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is a growing sector for obvious reasons and it is always good to see creative works that make such an important sector look appealing.
So after I got hyped off some sweet nothings about the film, I eventually saw the trailer and loved the vibe it had. It had the same warmth that "On My Block" has.and the music sounded promising to me.
And on one of those fronts, I was right! The music & soundtrack for this film is clean! The score was done by Micheal Abels, the same person who flipped "I Got 5 On It" for Jordan Peele's "Us". Needless to say, the score is great. But the soundtrack is beautiful. Straight off the bat, Dawn Penn's "You Don't Love Me" comes on and reminds me how fire that track is. Then comes Buddy's "Hey Up There". The first 10 minutes of this film was perfect.
Also in those 10 minutes, Micheal J Fox makes an appearance to warn the protagonists about Time Travel, which is great because, you know... Marty McFly!!!
With that said, lets talk a little about the protagonists. Shout out to Eden Duncan-Smith (CJ) & Dante Crichlow (Sebastian) who carried this film very well. The story was more about CJ since her brother dying is the inciting incident of this film, but I really liked Sebastian as the more level-headed one, trying to stay objective every step of the way. More on this later.
CJ & Sebastian are clearly the smartest people in the room at all times, but they keep that to themselves, dedicating to achieving the always elusive concept of Time Travel. Early in the film, after a failed test, Mr Lockhart (M.J Fox) casts a cloud over the narrative, telling CJ about the ethics, consequences & power that is to be the person with the ability to Time Travel. What he says will stick in your mind for the entirety of the film.
I love all the characters in this. The family's are tight-knit, there's an abundance of Caribbean cultural touchstones throughout the film which I relish in. There's a supporting character, Eduardo (Johnathan Nieves) who, if you have seen "She's Gotta Have It", is pretty much a teenage Mars who can make a mean circuit board. He was a good comic relief. And since I'm talking about supporting characters, shout out to Mass Appeal rapper Stro who was great as Calvin, CJ's sister. His performance in the 2nd half of the film in the midst of all the time travelling was great.
Little on the science of the film. I've just decided not to harp on the accuracy on it all. Because the concept of Time Travel is clearly a fascinating narrative tool and so outside what we understand that you can say whatever you want and I'll just say "okay then". I don't know about Time Travel and neither do you so might as well throw the jargon out of the window and enjoy the ride.
Which brings me to, I won't say negative, but thing I want to talk about. CJ is RECKLESS! I have never seen a person with the ability to Time Travel be so fast & loose with it. But! With that said, the reason why I emphasised what Mr Lockhart said & why I put speech marks on "Realistic" in my "Three Words" is because CJ is a teenage girl that may be the smartest person in her neighbourhood, but you can't stop fate. The fact that she could not save the people she cared about and try several times, consequences be damned, is a genuine human reaction.
First Calvin, then Sebastian, then Calvin again, THEN tells Sebastian that he died in the previous timeline, scaring him off the journey that he was 50/50 about in the first place. It's progression reminds me a lot of "Run Lola Run", a German film about a girl that has 20 minutes to get money to save her boyfriend. Those 20 minutes are repeated several times with minor and major differences every time. It's great, highly recommend.
Harping back to what I said about Sebastian's objectivity. It's that character trait that made me so sad that he literally got left in the dust at the end. He was the level head to keep Ms Reckless CJ on task but once she went on her own, it was clear that she's going to be alone until she saves both Calvin & Sebastian.
The ending was abrupt, but I really liked the way it ended. Because it basically said that CJ has put herself in the cycle and is now bound by it. The lack of closure is that cautionary tale that we seldom see. She fumbled the Time Travel bag and has handcuffed herself to this one task. Who knows if she ever succeeds? Some endings don't have to be clear and I like that Mr Bristol implemented that.
Overall, this was a refreshing film to watch. It's one thing to see two super smart black teenagers that apologise profusely when they kiss their teeth in the vicinity of their elders, but the clear STEM themes & realistic human reactions to death and having the potential to change the past was a great breath of fresh air. Moral of the story: Let's just not figure out Time Travel...