Netflix’s See You Yesterday review: Science fiction meets a harsh reality

Photo Credit: See You Yesterday/Netflix, Acquired From Netflix Media Center
Photo Credit: See You Yesterday/Netflix, Acquired From Netflix Media Center /

See You Yesterday uses a science fiction set up to make a sobering statement about police brutality and America’s gun violence problem.

One of the latest films to hit Netflix is the sci-fi drama See You Yesterday. Brought to us by the writing duo of Fredrica Bailey and Stefon Bristol (also directed by Bristol), the film boasts Spike Lee as a producer. Lee was actually Bristol’s professor at NYU but it took him several tries before he was able to impress the film legend.

The Netflix original film See You Yesterday follows Claudette, or CJ, Walker (Eden Duncan-Smith) and her best friend Sebastian Thomas (Dante Crichlow) as they work to build a time machine to impress everyone at the upcoming science expo.

Their teacher, played appropriately by Michael J. Fox, knows that they’re smart but worries about the “ethical and philosophical conundrum” that time travel would cause. It starts off as a fun idea, but when someone close to CJ is killed by a trigger-happy police officer, it stops being fun very quickly. Now, CJ and Sebastian have a real reason to go back in time to try to save a loved one from a horrible fate.


One of the reasons that See You Yesterday works better as a Netflix release than as a theatrical release is because of the tone of the film. At times it feels like a PG-13 movie. You have teenage science nerds trying to create a time machine and getting into trouble with their parents. Then, it quickly shifts to a rated-R movie with incredibly strong language and violent situations. This is fine as long as you know what you’re getting into, but I believe it would have been difficult to market this as a rated-R movie.

I appreciated the way the movie was handled. CJ and Sebastian feel like real kids living in a real world that isn’t sunshine and roses. They have genius level intelligence but they’re still kids that know how to navigate the streets, living in what appears to be a somewhat tough part of Brooklyn that is heavily patrolled by police. The way they interact with the world and the way the world interacts with them feels authentic and was one of my favorite aspects of the movie.

Police Brutality

The police brutality angle in See You Yesterday is what made it hit home in the worst way possible.

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Often in films that portray those moments, they feel way too overblown and dramatic, but in this case, every interaction felt authentic. In the first interaction, I was brought back into the feeling of knowing that when you come from certain communities you have to obey the police or risk losing your life. Even in the interactions where death wasn’t really a possible result, you could still feel how the weight of a police presence dominated the kid’s lives. They couldn’t even have a passionate discussion on the street without being harassed and made to feel like they didn’t belong.

As the film goes along, you start to realize the message being sent with each of these interactions and the larger conversation about American gun culture. The police are not the only ones that kill innocent people in this country and See You Yesterday addresses this also. I thought that the handling of these topics also felt very real, perhaps too real.

My only complaint

The only complaint I have with regard to See You Yesterday is a very small one. The first time that CJ and Sebastian travel through time the graphics do come off a bit goofy. It almost pulled me back into thinking that this was a fun, family-friendly type of film, but that was erased fairly quickly. Fortunately, they only show the full process the first time so it doesn’t become a real issue for the film keeping its serious tone.


See You Yesterday is a very good film with great performances from all involved. I appreciated the authenticity of the characters and the very real feel of the situations they faced. All of this made the sci-fi aspect much more acceptable.

Spike Lee told Bristol that the short he wrote in his class was “trash” and wasn’t unique, so he gave him something unique with See You Yesterday. If you can handle some rough language, understand the reality of police brutality, and aren’t put off by a little science fiction then you should give See You Yesterday a chance.

See You Yesterday arrived on Netflix on May 17 and is currently streaming. 

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