70 year old establishment white man, Ian McEwan, whose novel Saturday is the most insultingly unrealistic novel ever published, recently drew praise from credulous members of the UK literary establishment when he wondered out loud about how great it would be if science fiction was less about magic anti gravity boots and more about dealing with real issues in an imaginative way. The prick. But, anyway, here comes See You Yesterday, a science fiction film that uses the idea of time travel to explore the reality of black lives in America.
Produced by Spike Lee, See You Yesterday is the feature film directorial debut of Stefon Bristol. The story is simple in the way that the best stories are. Claudette ‘CJ’ Thomas and her best friend Sebastian have discovered time travel in their garage. They are concerned about getting what they need in time for an expo so run an experiment to test it out. It works. But then, because these people aren’t rich but are black, and are in New York, CJ’s brother gets shot and killed by the cops despite being decent and innocent. Thus the loop is formed and CJ and Sebastian deal with the fall out of trying to stop that happening.
See You Yesterday has an absolutely infectious energy. Eden Duncan-Smith has great fun as CJ, and the way her character runs through all the emotions, whilst trying to sort everything out, is the heart of the film. She is ably supported by Dante Crichlow as Sebastian and Astro as her brother Calvin. There’s a beautiful cameo early on from Michael J Fox as the science teacher. I love that ‘the science’ is wilfully unscientific. Gamma rays, protons, worm holes and a chalk board with symbols… and then time travel is achieved by a backpack and a smartphone, why not?
Nobody is going to accuse See You Yesterday of subtlety in its message. This is the science fiction chapter of black lives matter. That’s only a problem if you want it to be a problem. For the rest of us it shows that science fiction can be diverse, interesting, challenging, and still have something to say about the present day. The soundtrack also rocks.
Ian McEwan incidentally, decided his original take would be to play with the idea of … hold onto your hats … robots that might have human emotions. Like I say, life is different when you’re white.