A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that See You Yesterday is a teen-targeted drama that sets the problems of racist police brutality against a backdrop of sci-fi time travel. Two brilliant high school juniors use their time machine to try to go back in time to a moment before someone becomes the innocent victim of a fatal police shooting. The ethics and morality of time travel and attending unforeseen consequences are explored. Neighborhood kids fight and threaten each other, and two rob a bodega, which leads to police shooting an innocent man. Blood is seen. People cry at a funeral. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "d--k," and the "N" word. Guys objectify women and talk about wanting to "hit that s--t" (have sex with) certain girls.
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What's the story?
In SEE YOU YESTERDAY, best friends CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) are two of the smartest students at the elite New York City Bronx High School of Science. The movie starts at the end of their junior year, as they work to complete a time machine that they hope will win them the science expo and get them into elite colleges. Every day they leave school for home, a rough Brooklyn neighborhood where street smarts are more important for survival than high IQs. CJ's older brother, Calvin (Astro), has a job washing dishes at a fast-food barbecue joint. Both siblings mourn the loss of their father, who died as active duty military. Their mom, who is loving and supportive, does hair in their apartment to make money. Sebastian is being raised by his warm and caring grandparents, and he and CJ fix cell phones and laptops in his garage to make the money to support their big project. Several test runs fail, but within minutes of successfully launching themselves into one day in the past, they change events and get someone killed in an encounter with racist, overly violent cops. When CJ and Sebastian return to the present, CJ insists they return further into the past to prevent the death, which causes another death instead. CJ's hot temper, impatience, and bad judgment keep causing problems that require going back and fixing tragedies that revolve around the reality of living in a poor neighborhood where desperate, undereducated youth commit crimes against fellow neighbors and the police treat everyone like criminals.
Is it any good?
What this movie does extremely well is provide images lacking in the mainstream media: of brilliant black teens using their brains and creativity to excel academically and in the real world. But See You Yesterday can be confusing, as its tone changes drastically -- from a seeming lighthearted teen adventure story about a fantastic science project to a violent urban realist tragedy about innocent youths gunned down by police. The first part feels like Real Genius, emphasizing bright kids following their intellectual curiosity, so the frequent use of profane language in this section feels jarring.
One point the film makes well is that when the genius kids happen to be economically disadvantaged and black, the neighborhoods they go home to after a day at an elite school have as much influence on their lives as dreaming about how to put protons, the speed of light, and wormholes to use in cool world-changing inventions. So when the movie suddenly resembles Boyz n the Hood, the language and the fear of police brutality and street crime make sense. Each of the genres are done well, but they fight each other for dominance in this well-acted piece.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about time travel movies like See You Yesterday. What's the appeal?
CJ is a highly intelligent and creative girl who wants to win a scholarship to college. Do you think there's a difference between being school smart and having common sense? Do you think CJ has common sense?
Why do you think so few movies feature brilliant teenagers who are black? Would you like to see more?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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