See You Yesterday is a Netflix film that tells the story of C.J. Walker, a high school prodigy who along with her friend and fellow prodigy, Sebastian Thomas, develop a time-traveling backpack. When a trigger-happy police officer murders C.J.’s brother, she makes it her mission to go back in time to save his life.
See You Yesterday is directed by Stefon Bristol making his feature length directorial debut. The film was written by Stefon Bristol and Fredrica Bailey and produced by Spike Lee.
What if Back to the Future were set around the Black experience? See You Yesterday aims to provide you with a modern glimpse into exploring that very question.
If time travel were possible, it would be the greatest ethical and philosophical conundrum of the modern age. If you had that kind of power, what would you do? What would you change?
The story takes place in my hometown of Brooklyn, NY. You get to see the bodega culture. You get to see the mix of Black and Brown people struggling to make it through the day. The sights and sounds of NYC are respected throughout the film. I expect nothing less from Spike Lee.
Bristol pays respects to scientists and investors. C.J. and Sebastian have a picture of Lyda Newman, famous inventor, an organizer of the African-American branch of the Woman Suffrage Party, which fought for the rights of women to vote, and fellow New Yorker hanging in their garage lab.
What I also love about the writing of this film is that C.J. isn’t portrayed in the played-out, anti-social nerd every film shows a genius, especially when it comes to girls. She is present and known throughout her community. She has dated in the past. She’s not your stereotypical nerd. Bristol and Bailey were thoughtful about her portrayal.
C.J. is close with her brother, Calvin. Their father passed away and Calvin assumes the “man of the house” role. Calvin respects C.J.’s genius and tries to keep her safe from falling into the cycle. He sees her, almost selfishly and poetically, as his second chance at life.
Calvin was murdered by a trigger-happy police officer after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. This came on the heels of another police shooting not too long before. C.J. makes it her mission to use her discovery to fix the timeline and save her brother.
The actors are great. Eden Duncan-Smith is terrific as C.J. Dante Crichlow delivers an emotional performance in the role of Sebastian. The film has some comedic elements which definitely make it feel like a Spike Lee Joint. The special effects are a little cheese, but they are secondary to the story, completely superfluous and almost unnecessary, but do not distract from the story. The score is a little paint by numbers, but serves its purpose well enough.
See You Yesterday is based off a short film featured at the American Black Film Festival in 2017. The initial script was written in 2014. This was the same year Eric Garner was murdered by NYPD police officer, Daniel Pantaleo.
The movie is a science fiction tale rooted in the realities of black lives. Bristol reminds the audience, even those red-hatted ones who may have stumbled on the film by accident, that even in a world where time travel is possible, the chips remain stacked against black people. A Black man can work hard washing dishes at a BBQ spot. A young, Black woman can have genius-level intellect with a world and history-level shattering discovery on her hands. No one is beyond how society pictures and pigeonholes them. Tale as old as time, but the hope is that the more people can acknowledge this reality, we can take that knowledge and change the future.
See You Yesterday is currently available for streaming on Netflix.
See You Yesterday Review
See You Yesterday brings realism to the time-travel sub genre of science fiction. While some performances are stellar, some fall flat with missed opportunities to build on the stories of certain characters. The score could have used a little life, but it worked well enough. I am excited to see what the future holds for Stefon Bristol.