In the Loop: See You Yesterday

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

See You Yesterday (2019, directed by Stefon Bristol)

  • Time until the loop begins: 40 minutes
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: CJ’s brother, Calvin, is shot and killed by police
  • Number of time loops: 4 (at least in the movie)
  • Lessons learned: Keep trying until you get it right even if you never get it right

In the Loop logoCJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) is an adorable teenage science nerd who, with her friend Sebastian (Dante Crichlow), has figured out how to go back in time — but only for 10 minutes at a time. After her brother, Calvin (Brian “Stro” Bradley), is shot dead by police, she makes it her mission to save him.

There is maybe more establishing of the loop (although this is a self-created loop rather than a loop someone is stuck in) but getting to know CJ’s life is important to what follows (the first instance of time travel is about 20 minutes in but it’s not really part of the loop). The siblings’ relationship is sweet even when they butt heads and it’s easy to understand why she’d want to do everything possible to change things.

The self-awareness and kindness of See You Yesterday is a delight and it’s surprisingly light-hearted given the overall subject matter. Michael J. Fox plays CJ’s teacher (in his last role before he retired from acting) in a fun nod. It’s honestly fun to see two smart Black teens enjoying being smart and a loving friendship between a boy and a girl that doesn’t turn romantic.

The more CJ tries to fix things, the more things go wrong, of course. She saves her brother, but Sebastian dies. Then, of course, she goes back in time to save Sebastian. She saves Sebastian but her brother still dies.

This is Stefon Bristol’s first movie, based on his short of the same name, and he balances the various tones of this movie in a surprisingly accomplished way. It’s smart, it’s funny and playful while still keeping the social issues at the heart of it at the forefront.

The movie ends with CJ trying again — we don’t know the outcome of that attempt but it’s clear she’s going to keep going until she gets it right. It feels bittersweet, but there’s also hope. Maybe CJ can’t accept the past, but she’s going to keep trying as many times as she has to. If you have the power to make things right, why wouldn’t you try to use it?

Next week on April 6: The Girl(s) Who Leapt Through Time

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.