See You Yesterday is proof science-fiction is a genre for everyone and appropriate in any setting. Director Stefon Bristol brings the science and ethics of time-travel to the Bronx and sets it against the social backdrop of police brutality.
Claudette “CJ” (Eden Duncan-Smith) is a young teenage girl, who is on the cusp of figuring out the physics of time travel with her friend, Sebastian (Dante Crichlow). No believes she can seriously figure the science out, not even her science teacher. But he likes her enthusiasm and let’s her “borrow” an important piece of tech from the school for the summer.
”…a young teenage girl, who is on the cusp of figuring out the physics of time travel…”
The temperature all around is rising at the start of summer, especially in the Bronx as there is protesting going on over a recent police shooting incident. For CJ and Sebastian, everything finally clicks in and after several attempts, they figure out the winning formula for time travel making a successful, yet brief, journey to one day in the past. The two decide to keep their success a secret and head home to celebrate and strategize.
Their celebration soon turns to tragedy as CJ is told her brother Calvin (Astro) was killed by a police officer, who mistook him for one of the robbers of a nearby bodega they frequent. Thinking back, she knows she could have prevented his death. After Calvin’s funeral, the stubborn and determined CJ grabs Sebastian and goes back in time to save the day. But fate has a way of intervening and like any good sci-fi story, any attempt to change the past is rarely without its complications as tragedy begets tragedy.
Let’s get the identity politics out of the way right now. This is not a black Back to the Future, although a particularly awesome cameo might say otherwise, slapping a label simply diminishes how fun See You Yesterday is as a sci-fi time-travel tale. While it’s ethics about using time travel for personal reason is not new, writers Stefon Bristol and Fredrica Bailey tells a fresh and unique adventure that stands on its own. The best example is a twist that occurs in the middle of the film and how it comes straight out of the sci-fi genre. It’s importance sets the stage for how the rest of the story plays out.
“A good amount of cursing, a few choice n-words, and one or two important deaths will put an end to any Disney teen comparisons…”
Another insult might be to liken See You Yesterday to a summer Disney Channel film. Although I will say I question the visual tone of the film. Much of the exterior shots are bright, crisp, and clean—a look I often associate with Disney Channel single-camera kiddie sitcoms. A good amount of cursing, a few choice n-words, and one or two important deaths will put an end to any Disney teen comparisons before it begins. Bristol and Bailey successfully ground their tale in Bronx and the leads Eden Duncan-Smith and Dante Crichlow plays their characters as decidedly teenagers, highly intelligent.
What makes See You Yesterday work for me is its fresh take on the overtold, worn-out, time-travel trope and the pitfalls of time travel. A fun and solid story that score big points with its originality and good lead performances. All this to say, See You Yesterday is good science fiction.
See You Yesterday (2019) Directed by Stefon Bristol. Written by Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol. Starring Eden Duncan-Smith, Dante Crichlow, Astro. See You Yesterday screened at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
7.5 out of 10 stars