Ask and you shall receive, at least that’s what I’m told. It seems like yesterday the topic of black science fiction and a need for more was on my mind. Then enters See You Yesterday. The timing couldn’t have been better so let’s skip the formalities and get right into it.
See You Yesterday, drops May 17th on #Netflix. It’s not everyday that science fiction is told from the black perspective. I can’t say I’ll love it, but I’m tuning in. We need more black #scifi. https://t.co/6VwCr8KjtU
The film has this home feel to it, but all of that turns south midway. It starts off with two teenage kids, CJ and Sebastian, attempting to time travel. Moments later we see them in a classroom waiting to be released for the summer.
They even managed to get Michael J. Fox in on the deal. It would’ve been crazy if he were playing the same character, like a cinematic universe, but that’s not the case here. What was Marty McFly is now Mr. Lockhart, the school teacher. And somehow they sneak in a “Great Scott,” paying homage to a popular phrase from Doc Brown.
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After our teenage crew leave from school, along with some borrowed materials, they test their time travel luck again. Sorry Endgame but the rules are different here. With the appropriate adjustments they finally figure it out, zapping them back a day, and with a 10-minute time limit to match. Similar to Project Almanac, they almost bump into their doubles, which would make either one of them disappear because unlike Endgame interacting with your double is a no-no. Later in the film you’ll see why. But once they return to the present, it signals the end of all that happy atmosphere the film tried to have. It was this point where I knew shit was going downhill, and it did hard.
One thing I’ll say about black films is trauma seems to be a key component, like there’s no other narratives to tell, because we see a lot of it in See You Yesterday. There’s just something about capturing these images of pain and lost in black films that make me not want to watch them. It fucks with your psyche constantly seeing images like that and I have a hard time understanding why black creators feel a need to create them.
I was just thinking about that last part. https://t.co/cC8nRNuWRi
The soundtrack, the happy vibes and pride-based film tricks you. There were many parts I liked however. The bond between two friends, the brother and sister love, and most importantly a thriving black community all in support of each other when times call for it. You see plenty of these moments and that’s where the film is strong.
Sebastian probably liked CJ but these two were tight with each other. A close bond that any young man or woman should have in their life.
Where it takes that tragic turn is when her brother is shot the first time. They didn’t show it so I was relieved by that. It leaves it up to your imagination. Unfortunately, that sigh of relief from earlier would soon fade when the crew goes back for a third time to save her brother. Only this time, we see her best friend lose his life, twice! So not only do we have a film centered around police use of force, we have a film around intraviolence. What started as a rescue attempt results in her best friend’s death from a botched robbery. And why he had to go look at himself dying is beyond me. For these characters to be so smart they do a lot of dumb shit. I think that part pissed me off the most. Not only that it’s like we’re in the mind of this teenage girl and experiencing her every moment, but hardly any of it goes her way. It’s pretty fucked up seeing her go through it all, you know? That’s a summer you never forget! But the most fucked up part has yet to come.
I was beginning to wonder how much more pain could going back in time cause. You would think a happy outcome of some sort were around the corner, but nope! Cue her next attempt. Only this time she’s going to save her best friend. It makes you think though, and about trying to change the events of time. There’s always something that goes off course. But now she’s back in time, and we see she arrives just seconds after her best friend does, which means she managed to save him. With Sebastian clueless they both run and make an unplanned left toward CJ brother’s whereabouts. They arrive but not nearly in time as the robbery still happens, putting them all at the scene and soon to be interrupted by trigger happy cops. They really had to make them that way, huh?
I didn’t think the film would get any worse until this part. Normally at these junctures you would think a warning to her brother would lead them to quickly flee the scene then figure out what’s going on, but nope! They remain, and argue, making the scene just as hot as before. Another dumb move by our characters. When the cops finally pull up, that’s when the shit hit the fan. They ask for IDs so you think things would work, but somehow the scene turns into everybody face down on the ground. Was Sebastian really resisting? They show her brother look at his own obituary and it reveals the face of Sebastian. At this point her brother wises up and draws the cops attention, and……(sigh)
I don’t know what else to say about it. I went into this film knowing I wouldn’t love it because of the plot. I wanted to see a science fiction film from the black perspective, but what I ended up with was another piece about social justice and a heavy dose of black male death. They vividly show the older brother get shot this time and his lifeless body fall in the background. Fuck! I haven’t seen a science fiction film so traumatic. In a major way it robs you of what joy science fiction and fantasy normally provide.
It was all too much, especially for a film aimed toward teens. I suspected See You Yesterday would be this way. I just didn’t realize it was a way that makes it a one and done thing, kind of like Fruitvale Station (a film I’ll never see). I won’t go into what happens afterward because it pissed me off even more. Let’s just say we see all of this suffering and time travel attempts and don’t even know if her next attempt actually worked, unless CJ brother’s disappearance in the scene beforehand offers us a clue, which means she failed.
All in all, See You Yesterday leaves me with a bad taste so I doubt it’ll have any replay value beyond critique. We see the lead go through so much shit to save her loved ones but at a cost. One thing you also see is more of the same, just with a science fiction angle. Am I satisfied? Not really. Far too many films that speak truth to power and for something (black science fiction) that is so rare to only follow in those same, repetitive steps. The actors were enjoyable. And I’m all for telling black stories and the realities that go on within them, but sometimes I think these black films are trapped, leaving us with nothing but more grief about system failures and little room to imagine elsewhere. So would I say go see the film? Definitely! If not for the SciFi then the family love, but these black death storylines should be for the birds.