Title: See You Yesterday
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Director: Stefon Bristol
Production Company: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
C.J. (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) are a pair of nerdy teens who develop a device that allows them to jump into wormholes and travel back in time. Their rather modest goal is to win a prize at a citywide science competition but when the device actually works it opens new possibilities and deadly consequences. The movie draws on classic time travel movies like Back to the Future which it acknowledges with a cameo by Michael J. Fox as C.J. and Sebastian’s teacher (and in a double reference, he’s first seen reading the time travel novel Kindred).
The movie also draws influence from producer Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, as well as current events. C.J. lives in an African-American and Afro-Caribbean neighborhood at a time of heightened tension following a police shooting of a community member. The tension is exemplified in a scene where C.J. and her brother Calvin (Brian “Stro” Bradley) can’t even have an argument on a sidewalk without drawing harassment from the police. Another police shooting is a key event as C.J. and Sebastian use their time travel technology to attempt to prevent the killing but each time they go back they inadvertently change events leading to someone else dying.
This is a movie that deserves a happy ending. Instead we get an ambiguous ending as we see C.J. returning the past once again and running as the screen goes black. Perhaps her running represents the endless cycle of death she cannot break, perhaps this time she is planning to sacrifice herself to save the lives of others. Marty McFly was able to change events in the past to save the live of Doc Brown and inadvertently make his family happier and more prosperous. But there are no happy endings in Black and brown communities where children continue to be shot dead by the police with no consequences.
The movie is very short, which is a strength in tight plotting and scripting, although I felt a longing for more. Sometimes the messaging has an after school special feel to it. But the acting by Duncan-Smith, Crichlow, and Bradley is strong, and I hope to see more from them in the future.