See You Yesterday review – poignant time travel caper is a Netflix win

This engaging, often ingenious, Spike Lee-produced adventure sees two teens try to stop a police shooting by going back in time

In the last couple of years, we’ve witnessed a glut of film-makers and screenwriters responding to the increase in publicised, and often iPhone-recorded, incidents of unarmed black men being shot and killed by racist police officers. In Monsters and Men, Widows, Blindspotting and The Hate U Give, an ugly real-world epidemic provided dramatic impetus for creators and audiences have been left with a necessary and damning snapshot of the time we’re in.

There’s more on the way, including the horror movie Body Cam and Ava DuVernay-produced miniseries The Red Line, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything quite like See You Yesterday, a smart, often ingenious, new film that takes a depressingly familiar scenario and then adds some time travel to the mix.

In East Flatbush, Brooklyn, high schoolers CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) spend their time attempting to do the impossible: turn back time. After the pair finally crack the code, transporting themselves back just one day for just 10 minutes, tragedy strikes. CJ’s 19-year-old brother Calvin (rapper-actor Astro) is mistaken for a robber on the run and after his phone is mistaken for a weapon, he’s shot and killed by an officer blinded by colour. The pair now have an added imperative for travelling back through time: saving Calvin.

Based on his short of the same name, writer-director Stefon Bristol’s feature-length debut is a curious, mostly compelling, gambit, weaving together disparate tones and genres, creating something that feels both fresh and familiar in the process. While Bristol is working with limited means, he’s crafted a film that’s clearly made with a wide, blockbuster-sized audience in mind, capturing a sun-drenched Brooklyn summer with slick vibrancy, the film positioned as a family-friendly afternoon watch during the warmer months.

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