This Teen Sci-Fi Shows The Fullness Of Black Life & You Need It On Your Watch List

Welcome to “What’s Good,” a weekly column where we break down what’s soothing, distracting, or just plain good in the streaming world.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What’s Good? See You Yesterday on Netflix
Who’s It Good For? This is a loaded question. I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, Who are you writing for? Usually, I’d say I write for the Black girls who, for too long, didn’t feel seen. That’s still true. But oftentimes, especially right now, I’m also writing to white people and non-Black POC on behalf of those same Black girls advocating for us, and for our worth. I shouldn’t have to do that. And I don’t want to just show you our pain. But it doesn’t feel right to ignore our reality. See You Yesterday is for the so-called allies who want to be woken up to police brutality and injustice (where you been?), and it also depicts Black life and teenagehood in a joyful way we rarely see. This movie is for all of us. Fine, if you want me to be more specific, it’s like Back To The Future meets The Hate U Give
How Good Is It? See You Yesterday is one of those movies that came and went with little more than quiet buzz on Black Twitter. It’s too good for that. See You Yesterday is a sci-fi film with a social message, produced by Spike Lee, directed by Stefon Bristol in his feature film debut, and co-written by Bristol and Fredrica Bailey. The vibrant film follows nerdy best friends, Claudette aka CJ and Sebastien (played by Eden Duncan-Smith and Dantè Crichlow), the smartest kids in their high school, as they work to figure out how to get the time-travelling backpacks they made to work. No big deal.
Michael J. Fox (in a nod to Back To The Future) has a cameo as their science teacher who’s casually reading another time-travel classic, Octavia Butler’s Kindred. (See what they did there?) CJ and Sebastien’s friendship is the backbone of this movie and the beginning is a colourful celebration of carefree Black childhood. We get to just watch smart Black kids be great.
Then, See You Yesterday takes a turn. CJ’s older brother Calvin (Astro) — who we get to know as the protective type who would do anything for his brilliant little sister — is shot and killed by police. By now, CJ and Sebastien have figured out time travel (in 10-minute increments) and they take it upon themselves to try to save Calvin. See You Yesterday goes from fun, lighthearted romp to a devastating cyclical rumination on grief and what happens to the people left behind by police brutality. CJ is the little sister fighting, over and over again, for a reality in which police don’t kill her big brother just because he’s Black.
She could also be a stand-in for the mothers, sisters, and countless Black women who have to grapple with watching their sons, brothers, fathers, lovers, and friends die at the hands of police. And for the Black women who know that the same thing could happen to them but without the same public outcry. A Black girl knows that if she dies, her name might not even become a hashtag. Somehow, CJ tells us all of this with her eyes, through her tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses. Duncan-Smith gives a stunning performance that's equal parts comedic, angsty, and gutting.
See You Yesterday is so good because of its ability to show us the fullness of Black life — yes, there are parts that are tragic. There is also a whole lot of laughter and joy, even though, for some of us, there isn’t going to be a happy ending. As Soraya McDonald put it for The Undefeated, “Not even scientific genius has the power to outrun unscrupulous police.”
Things that are also good:
• The criminally (pun-intended) underrated Netflix drama Seven Seconds about police corruption and starring Queen Regina King as a grieving Black mother
Across The Line, a hockey movie that actually addresses the sport’s culture of racism, starring Stephan James and Shamier Anderson (besides the point, but they are the hottest Canadian brothers in Hollywood), written by Floyd Kane and directed by Director X, and streaming on CBC Gem 
• The freeing power of belting out Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna…” to no one in particular 
• Watching I Am Not Your Negro and absorbing James Baldwin’s words as many times as you need to (it’s available for free on the Criterion Channel now)
Defunding the police 

More from TV