See You Yesterday (2019)

“If you had that kind of power, what would you do? What would you change?”

The colorful and corny poster might suggest that See You Yesterday deserves to be taken every bit as seriously as 2002’s gimmicky time-travel movie Clockstoppers from Nickelodeon studios. There’s a visible resemblance between the two, but the difference is in the maturity level, the surprising dramatic depths this one reaches and the social awareness that’s always front and center. See You Yesterday uses a well-worm plot device to investigate a real life story, and that’s why it manages to feel so unbound by the time or the space in which it takes place.

Right off the bat, See You Yesterday is both immediately convincing and surprisingly raw. This is no plucky, PG-13 teen movie. Curse words are dropped without much pause and the leading duo talk the way teens do, albeit with a scientific acumen. They’re C.J. Walker (Eden Duncan-Smith, giving the kind of performance that’ll hopefully open up the floodgates of opportunity) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow), lifelong best friends who geek out on all things related to the STEM field. While working on an advanced science fair project, the two inadvertently develop the gear to make hopping back in time possible. Unfortunately they’ll have to test run the technology for all of the wrong reasons.

C.J.’s older brother Calvin (Astro) is gunned down by police officers for no reason. The tight-knit community mourns, demanding justice and seeking a way to combat the constant racial profiling, and a light-bulb goes off in C.J.’s head. She’ll travel back in time with Sebastian to prevent the murder from ever occurring. With each journey they only have ten minutes to spare, and the more time jumps they take, the more hurdles and repercussions they’re forced to cleanly leap along the way. See You Yesterday has the social drama of a brilliant film like The Hate U Give and uses the high-concept of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine to depict the unfair fight minorities face while battling systemic injustices. They’re massive underdogs even when they seem to have the upper-hand.

See You Yesterday’s ending won’t satisfy many audience members, mostly because there’s little to no finality or sense of a conclusion to what’s escalated over the course of the picture. I think that’s the desired effect director Stephen Bristol is going for as he shows us a group of proud Guyanese Americans who persevere in the face of unruly government, indefensibly casual prejudice, and the very rules of space and time. Bristol has expanded on his own short film with the help of Spike Lee as a producer for the project, resulting in the type of timely picture Lee’s been known to make but through a specific science-fiction genre lens. See You Yesterday has its pleasant quirks, the film is fun and adventurous, and it’s intensely sobering. I predict big things to come from Bristol in the not-so-distant future.

“If I could go back and fix it I would.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

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