SEE YOU YESTERDAY
Review by: Christopher Haskell
November 22, 2019
Time travel meets a Spike Lee joint in Netflix’s “See You Yesterday,” the low budget feature film debut from director Stefon Bristol. Having been a student of NYU, with Spike Lee as a mentor and eventually a producer of the film, it comes as no surprise where Stefon’s influences stem from. He states that “Do the Right Thing” and “Back to the Future Part II” are two of his favorite films so you can see why his first film is a perfect marriage between the two. Hell, even Michael J. Fox provides a quick cameo that he punctuates with the line “Great Scott!”
The film follows high school geniuses C.J. (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) as they develop backpack time machines in their garage. At first, they are merely striving to win a science fair. However, after the loss of C.J.’s older brother in a police shooting, their goals become focused on changing the course of history. As with any time travel story, that change comes at a cost.
What makes “See You Yesterday” so pointed is its depiction of police brutality on the streets of New York. The high tension displayed between black civilians and law enforcement is almost timeless. This could have happened thirty years ago, or it could have happened yesterday. Originally created as a short film, Stefon and his co-writer Fredrica Bailey developed the script in the summer of 2014 when the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner were prevalent in the news. It’s not shocking then that those stories ended up “bleeding” into the script.
“See You Yesterday” makes do with a cast of mostly first-time actors. Its visual effects rise above their low budget and are better than half the stuff you see on T.V. these days. Plus, the story not only speaks to the issues of police brutality but adds in sci-fi elements that could have stood on their own. All of this leads to the makings of a reasonably successful directorial debut. The best compliment I can give Stefon Bristol is that his debut makes me want to hear what else he has to say. And Spike Lee, a director who has made a career of doing the same, has to be proud.
BEST FIRST FEATURE
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
August 7, 2009