A Film Noir SF Parable
Took the screener DVD of YESTERDAY WAS A LIE for a spin last night—and a dizzying ride it was, indeed. The black and white film from writer-editor-director James Kerwin takes the form of a film noir detective story, but it’s really more like an extended discussion of ideas of time, causality, and reality.
We begin with Hoyle (Kipleigh Brown), who is some kind of detective. Police? Private Eye? It’s not clear at the outset, and expect no revelations on this subject as the film progresses. She’s looking for answers about an elusive theorist (John Newton) and a WWII-era notebook about researches into the nature of time.
Wearing my critic’s hat through the first 15 minutes or so of the movie lead to frustration, so I had to switch to a more passive viewer mode. Seeming inconsistencies and anachronisms increase and become more obviously intentional as the film moves along, as do numerous references to non-linear time, alternate realities, left/right brain theory, and memory.
DEEP SPACE NINE’s Chase Masterson (who also produced) plays a mysterious and nameless singer, a doppelganger for Hoyle, with a strong suggestion that she is really another aspect of the lead character. Information that she and others supply further questions Hoyle’s own point of view and independent existence.
Physics, Philosophy, and Jungian Psychiatry lie at the heart of this film, along with bits of T.S. Elliot. Which is one of YESTERDAY’s flaws: there’s too many ideas and theories, some of them (arguably) simplified and distorted to fit the movie’s premise: “The most powerful force in the universe lies within the depths of the human heart”.
While a valid artistic viewpoint, all of these items left me feeling at times that I was watching an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, padded out to feature length with a bunch of related and very interesting, but possibly non-essential elements. (For example, STAR WAR’s Peter Mayhew appears as a silent and menacing figure that adds to the noir-ish mood and performs one important action. Yet the character is nothing more than a device to provide those very functions, adding nothing of essential value to the storyline.)
What YESTERDAY lacks in the end is a powerful dramatic punch or emotional pay-off. There is a coda that suggests a balance has been reached (and could be read more than one way), but it’s not all that satisfying from a conventional standpoint.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the movie. I found the actors attractive and engaging, and the photography is outstanding. Shot in high definition color video by D.P. Jason Cochard, it’s been regraded & desaturated into a beautiful approximation of that silvery, luminous way post-WWII pancromatic B&W film stock and lighting tends to looks onscreen.
So while I can’t recommend the film to the casual viewer looking for a fun Sci-Fi adventure, I think it’s very much worth watching by the SF fan looking for an interesting and challenging film experience.
The DVD contains a number of interesting bonus features, including an eight page preview of the YESTERDAY WAS A LIE graphic novel.
YESTERDAY WAS A LIE
Helicon Arts Cooperative
Running Time: 89 minutes
Catalog #: E1E-DV-6717