The time travel sub-genre has been done to death, but Netflix’s See You Yesterday puts a creative spin on it that turns this into more than just a time travel movie.
When CJ’s brother Calvin (Astro) is shot and killed, CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) use their newly built time machines to try and reverse the events that led to his death. From first-time writer/director Stefon Bristol, See You Yesterday breathes new life into the time-travel genre.
A sci-fi film with a story shrouded in family, love, community, peace, and a constant desire to change the past. See You Yesterday is a brilliantly fresh take on the time travel sub-genre that will make you feel a number of strong emotions throughout its very emotion-driven plot. It’s a blend of classic time travel and heavy social commentary where the story focuses on some pretty hard-hitting themes. It doesn’t forget to have some fun with the idea of time travel but for the most part, once this film gets down to business it tackles a number of major social issues.
It really is a captivating story, it draws you in with the promise of something decent, and wows with how it carefully navigates its subject matter to present everything in a way to get you thinking about certain things. It takes a number of turns to keep you on your toes and pulls all of them off very well. However, where the story definitely has its highs, it has its low points too. It takes a while to get going, the first act of this film takes its time, it lets you sit with the characters and get you into how this form of time travel works before it throws things into chaos. But it really is too slow, it comes across as if the first act was stretched out unnecessarily long in order to get the film closer to an hour and 30 minutes, which it doesn’t even hit.
On top of the dragging first act, I’m not too fond of the ending. Here’s where I’m going to be incredibly vague so as to not give away anything. I understand it fully. I understand the message behind the end and its a pretty thought-provoking one. But, it’s jarring, it occurs very abruptly and right when the story is at its high point. I like the idea and reasoning behind it, but ending a movie right when it hits that high point is almost never a good idea. It may work more for some, but it didn’t work for me.
This film does however turn out to be a damn good platform for both Eden Duncan-Smith and Dante Crichlow who put their talents on show as they deliver two strong emotional performances for such a young age. The two have such good chemistry together you instantly gravitate towards supporting them and being invested in their journey. They sell you on the emotional moments in the film so well they almost single handedly contribute all of the emotional weight. Atlas, who plays CJ’s brother, has a slightly less-featured role but what he does with his brief scenes on-screen is incredible. Some of his moments opposite Eden are some of the best scenes of the movie.
The film could have incorporated a slightly larger touch of humour to lighten the mood in some moments because of the heavy subject matter. But it’s not a necessity and may have resulted in it being more silly and tonally out of whack if anything. I will say though, Marty McFly himself, Michael J Fox is in this movie, and even though it’s only a 5 minute role it made my entire week. It’s so fitting that he would have some sort of role in this and I loved it. It’s one of my biggest takeaways from the film and if you love Back to the Future (1985) it will probably be one of yours too.
In the end, See You Yesterday turned out to be better than initially anticipated. The way it tackles some serious subject matter and turns it into an engaging story that doesn’t come across as forced is great. It’s a spin on the time travel sub-genre that makes it wholly original and really works. It’s highlighted by some great lead performances that inject a tonne of chemistry and emotion into the story. The fact that this was a 15 minute short film that has been extended into a feature film may be where some of the issues came from. but it’s still well worth a watch.