See You Yesterday
Going back is the only way forward
The film follows the story of an ambitious science prodigy, who uses her prowess and capabilities to create time machines, in order to save her brother from an incident that claimed his life. As she tries to alter the events of the past, she will eventually face the perilous consequences of time travel.
“See You Yesterday” subscribes to the classically cinematic vision of time travel in which making even the smallest change to the past could entirely disrupt the future.
Disruption comes unexpectedly in C.J.’s life when her brother Calvin (Astro) is murdered by the police, who mistake his phone for a weapon. C.J. decides that she’s going to go back in time and save her brother’s life, but she keeps complicating the past every time she jumps with her buddy Sebastian. Interestingly, a similar theme was just explored on Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone”—the idea that cycles of violence simply cannot be avoided, even with the ability to play with the very properties of time itself.
“See You Yesterday” isn’t quite as tight or focused as that “Twilight Zone” episode, but Bristol makes a number of smart decisions, including keeping it close to 80 minutes and bringing Flatbush to cinematic life. When I think of “See You Yesterday,” I think of the bright colors of the neighborhood, heavily influenced by Jamaican culture, and a movie that always feels like it’s in motion. Bristol has a vibrant eye, one clearly inspired by Lee’s early films in terms of visual composition and style. He’s also a promising director of actors, as evidenced by the work from his young cast.
As “See You Yesterday” becomes more cluttered with time travel loops, it becomes less interesting, and I’m not completely sold on the ending. The film is at its most powerful when at its simplest—the story of how someone could devise one of the most remarkable inventions in history but still be unable to fix the violence and racism in her community. As fun as the sci-fi is here, it’s that core of frustrated anger at a broken country that truly fuels everything that works in “See You Yesterday.”