This article contains spoilers! Be warned!
See You Yesterday is a Netflix Original science fiction film about time traveling (while black) and the endless ramifications of police brutality. Two science prodigies, CJ and Sebastian, succeed in building a time machine that can only travel to the past. A week after CJ and Sebastian showcase their time machine at a science expo, CJ's brother Calvin is killed by police for pulling his ID out of his pocket during a case of mistaken identity. Cue the news stories we know too well. Calvin’s face in the newspapers, his name chanted in street protests and his mother grieving her son. Police brutality is ubiquitous and See You Yesterday explores it intimately through CJ’s lens. Grieving and strong-willed, CJ aims to fix Calvin’s death by teaming up with Sebastian to go back in time and stop the shooting from happening.
See You Yesterday ends on a cliffhanger with CJ going back to the past one last time despite many failed and fatal attempts to save Calvin. The audience never finds out if CJ was able to save Calvin nor if anyone else (including CJ) died in the process.
See You Yesterday asks: what do you think about this country? What do you think about the power of an intrepid individual over centuries of oppression and violence? Do you believe that one person’s actions could save a person’s life? Can we fix a rigged system? Can we glue it back together? The solutions sound like rocket science, like quantum physics time traveling. They sound almost impossible. See You Yesterday asks: is your ending comforting, discomforting, dystopian, in-between, hopeful?
When asked about the cliffhanger ending, director Stefon Bristol said, “I didn’t want the film to be wrapped up in a bow. I didn’t give a clear answer about what happened, or let you know if the brother died or not,” Bristol said. “Often times when you have a tragic movie with a happy ending, people are like, ‘Well, all’s well that ends well.’ I don’t want that. I want the audience to be uncomfortable. I want the audience to have their own interpretation of what’s happening with our country.”
When I finished See You Yesterday, I sobbed. I sobbed because the ending I saw was CJ’s death. It wasn’t because I don’t believe in her abilities, her nerve or her brilliance. It’s because I’ve seen police brutality win so much that I can’t imagine the system losing. I saw her running into another situation that snowballed out of control and culminated in the end of her story. The question I felt this movie ultimately asked of us was: can we glue our interactions together to create a situation where Calvin is alive? Can police brutality be escaped by being in the right place at the right time? My gut said no.
See You Yesterday left me gasping for air because my ending was not hopeful or uplifting. My ending was fatal. I cried for CJ. I cried for Sebastian. I cried for Calvin. Police brutality is another reiteration of slavery and the roots are deep, intricate and seemingly impossible to detangle. My ending was dire, dystopian and ultimately exposed my dearth of faith in The United States. It exposed the path that this nation is on and must change if not burn down all together.