Time Travel films as a sub genre has run the gamut of tones, from the heartfelt classic of Somewhere in Time to the hard edge wicked side of The Butterfly Effect. When done right classics can be made of this troupe that was used as early as the 1921 silent film A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to the most recently in (Spoilers) Avengers: Endgame, once the rules have been established whether actual scientific theory is utilized or something taken from a previous film classic, it is usually the glue that holds everything together.
See You Yesterday is the latest film from Netflix directed by Stefon Bristol and produced by Spike Lee. The film follows a Brooklyn City teen about to go start the summer before her senior year at a Science Academy. Claudette “CJ” Walker (Eden Duncan-Smith) and her best friend Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) are on the verge of completing their experiment that will catapult them to stardom at their school’s end of year Science Fair. Their creation is a time displacement device, or in laymen’s terms, a time machine in a backpack. After an unsuccessful test the pair search for a way to improve the device when the unthinkable happens. CJ’s brother Calvin (Astro) is gunned-down by the police in another tragedy that plauges our society of unarmed black men killed for little to no reason. CJ becomes determined to go back and save her brother when things become more complicated as always when it comes to messing with the space-time continuum.
Again when you have films out there that have tread this ground before like Back to the Future and Déjà Vu, See You Yesterday falls somewhere in the middle. It’s focuses more on the heart than the science, which is the best move writers Fredrica Bailey and director Bristol make even when the predictable moments occur near the climax. The performances are solid by the young cast, with a fun surprise in the character of classmate Eduardo played by Johnathan Nieves, and since this is a Netfilx film it only gets a TV-MA rating for language and violence, however the several F-bombs and calling of people a “bitch” it is enough to keep me from showing my kids the film. Which is a shame since overall the film has a easy to digest message about family, justice, and grief.
I really enjoyed the film in its breezy hour and a half runtime, and it has a fantastic final shot. The filmmakers give just enough for you to care about the characters and enjoy the typical time travel elements. Also they have one of the better Back to the Future references out there. I look forward to seeing what Bristol can do with a bigger budget, he is not yet ready to step out of Spike Lee’s shadow, but I can see it in his future.