This Spike Lee-produced Netflix film brings us the Black time travelers we need.
Police brutality is an epidemic that has plagued the United States for decades. People of color are wrongfully targeted and even killed because of their skin tone and mannerisms. The subject of the police and their treatment of people of color, specifically black people in film and television, will never grow redundant, but See You Yesterday brings a unique approach to the topic in the form of time travel.
The story focuses on CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow), two high school best friends and science geniuses who, at the beginning of the film, are testing homemade time travel machines housed in their backpacks on the last day of school. The test is unsuccessful, but the audience is able to tell they are on the brink of solving time travel. When CJ’s older brother Calvin (Brian Vaughn Bradley Jr.) is slain by police due to mistaken identity, she is compelled to complete her time machine invention to go back in time and save her brother.
See You Yesterday, directed by Stefon Bristol and produced by his mentor Spike Lee, is a clever sci-fi film, but more importantly a powerful story about police brutality and its effect on the black community. Bristol combined his love for both Do the Right Thing and Back to the Future into a sci-fi movie that hits close to home.
There is a lot of love and care put into See You Yesterday. Bristol made sure the characters talked and acted like people from Brooklyn, New York. It is this authenticity that makes the dilemma of the story so heartbreaking. Two teenagers just invented time travel but instead of doing things we often associate with time travel from films like Back to the Future, Looper, and even Hot Tub Time Machine, they are stuck trying to prevent their loved one from being gunned down.
What makes the story harrowing is how frequently black people are being harassed and killed by police in See You Yesterday. A week before the death of Calvin, a 17-year-old black teenager was killed due to a similar situation causing a protest in Brooklyn. There seems to be no relief in sight, as if the writers wanted you to know that unless a drastic change occurs innocent people will continue to be gunned down due to police incompetence and negligence.
See You Yesterday is a triumph in black storytelling, combining the notion of time travel with a moving statement of resilience in the face of heartbreak.