"See You Yesterday" is a sharp time-travel story that takes on some weighty subject matter...but despite its teenage stars, it is definitely meant for adults.
Don't judge a book by its cover, or a person by the color of their skin. The same awareness and rush to judgment should be practiced when approaching the new Netflix film, "See You Yesterday," a film that on its surface may look innocent enough, but is in fact oozing with social relevancy and biting commentary about our current society. It's really good.
It is also bursting with originality, a fact that is surprising given that it might be dismissed as "just another time-travel movie." Best friends CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) are nerdy, science-loving teenagers who like to experiment in their converted garage-laboratory, with hopes of using their discoveries to propel them into prestigious colleges. How they come upon inventing time-travel is irrelevant to the story...the key is that they HAVE invented it. And like every other time-travel film, rules must be established within the film's own premise if we are to fully buy into what's occurring on-screen.
Even though the recent "Avengers: End Game" made fun of "Back to the Future"-style time-travel logic, this movie falls back into it (which is refreshing, since this established logic is how most of us process how time-travel works having seen and read countless movies and books on the subject over the courses of our lifetimes). We all know the key points: If you travel back in time, you have to be extremely careful not to do anything that could affect your current timeline, and DEFINITELY make sure you don't run into your past selves (that would be bad).
In CJ and Sebastian's world, they have discovered only how to go back in time a whole day. At first, their adventures back in time are innocent enough, but when CJ's brother (Astro) is innocently shot and killed by white police officers, CJ's time-jumps become much more important. However what seems like a simple enough mission - go back in time and prevent her brother's murder - only becomes more and more complicated the more they try to fix things. It seems that even time-travel isn't an easy remedy for erasing the social injustices that exist in this world.
If you were browsing Netflix and came across this movie, you might think to yourself that it's some sort of throw-away teen adventure, or that it's some sort of "Spy Kids" rip-off. You would be sorely mistaken. This movie is rated TV-MA, mostly because these teenage characters talk like real teenagers (re: lots of profanity), but also because of the subject matter the movie is addressing. When CJ makes one particular jump and decides to call the police right away to prevent an event that would in turn save her brother, the cops don't show up to the call. Why? We all know why. It's no shock to find out that this movie was produced by Spike Lee, a champion for shedding light on these types of issues.
The two young leads are break-outs. Eden Duncan-Smith and Dante Crichlow carry the movie, and their friendship is the crux of it. We don't quite get lots of character development from them, or anyone else populating the movie...all we need to know is what we get, and the story still works. And by the way, look for a fantastic and hilarious cameo from another famous time-traveler early in the film.
If time-travel movies make your head spin, this one likely will knock you out, because as it progresses, it gets more and more knotty and convoluted...but the good news is, upon reflection, it all seems to make sense within itself.
"See You Yesterday" approaches its story with the innocence of its young protagonists, but doesn't sugar-coat the harsh realities of the environment in which they live. It's a special movie that I hope doesn't get shuffled off of your movie playlist, and is one of the best time-travel films in a long time.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime.
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes.
Starring: Eden Duncan-Smith, Dante Crichlow, Astro, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Wavyy Jonez.
Co-Written and Directed by Stefon Bristol (feature-film debut).
"See You Yesterday" is available on Netflix starting Friday, May 17th, 2019.
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