There's no denying it. Yesterday Was A Lie is an ambitious little film. It aspires to be a noir science fiction mystery with a deeply metaphysical bent. Although it doesn't quite manage to check off all its genre boxes successfully, this film isn't shy about announcing its intentions. Director James Kerwin conveys his singular vision regarding the transcendental nature of love and regret with the help of a compelling performance by Chase Masterson.
As the film opens, we meet Hoyle (Kipleigh Brown), a private investigator on the hunt for a man named Dudas (John Newton). Hoyle believes Dudas is in possession of a notebook containing scientific secrets that no single man should ever be allowed to possess. Her search takes her through dark alleys with corpses (Peter Mayhew) and smoky lounges with sultry singers (Chase Masterson) who may know more than they let on. As Hoyle continues to follow increasingly odd leads, she is forced to question the very nature of reality and her place within it.
I don't want to say much more about the plot because there are twists and turns contained within that I wouldn't want to spoil for the viewer. Suffice it to say that Kerwin isn't interested in following a traditional linear narrative here. He employs a number of tricks to disorient the viewer. He shuffles about sequences in the film and occasionally replays scenes with mild variations. Then there's the matter of the anachronistic elements that take the film out of any known concept of time. While characters talk and carry themselves as if they are in an honest-to-goodness noir film, they also conduct online searches with Macs and talk on cell-phones. It's a jarring effect that re-frames the stunning black and white cinematography, courtesy of Jason Cochard, as something alien and sinister. Kerwin clearly has an artistic eye which comes through in numerous carefully composed shots throughout the film.
While I have nothing but praise for James Kerwin, the director, I do have a bone to pick with James Kerwin, the writer. He routinely fails to follow the basic principle of 'show, don't tell'. Scene after scene goes by with Hoyle meeting new characters only to engage in as much exposition-heavy dialogue as possible. All hopes for subtlety or nuance are thrown out the window as numerous psychologists, physicists and great thinkers are name-checked in a bid for authenticity. Although this demonstrates that Kerwin clearly did his research while writing the screenplay, it does a major disservice to the characters by turning them into mere mouthpieces in what sometimes feels like a filmed lecture.
I applaud the decision to present the stereotypical gumshoe role with a gender-bending twist. Having said that, I don't think Kipleigh Brown is quite right for the part of Hoyle. She seems too slight to truly capture Hoyle's hard-bitten nature. On the other hand, Chase Masterson absolutely nails the part of the mysterious singer. She is seductive and secretive in equal measure. Masterson even gets a chance to flex her golden pipes as her jazzy vocal performances are all over the film's soundtrack. Although John Newton has considerably less to do as Dudas, he brings a welcome gravity to his scenes with Brown. As for Peter Mayhew, it may not be easy to recognize him out of his Chewbacca get-up, but he does seem to have one of those faces that make you instantly question what he's up to.
I know this sounds strange but I'm still not exactly sure how I feel about this film after having seen it three times (once with commentary, twice without). On the one hand there's the striking visual appeal of the black and white presentation as well as the off-kilter nature of the narrative. Unfortunately, there's also the matter of the over-written dialogue that often brings the proceedings to a screeching halt. While there is no doubt that this film is filled with big ideas, I would probably be more receptive if I had to work a little harder to chase them down rather than having them rammed down my throat.
The movie was presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The black and white image was exceptionally clear. The picture was occasionally soft but I believe this was done intentionally in order to enhance the hazy noir look of a few scenes. Altogether this was an excellent visual presentation of the material.
The English audio was presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound and 2.0 Stereo tracks. I chose to view the film with the 5.1 Surround Sound mix and found it be quite lively indeed. The jazzy soundtrack was well represented with Chase Masterson's lounge performances being granted a pleasantly airy feel. English SDH subtitles were available.
First up, we have an Audio Commentary with Director James Kerwin, Kipleigh Brown and Chase Masterson. I found this commentary track to be fairly informative if a bit dry. Masterson and Brown try their hardest to liven up the proceedings but Kerwin seems focused on delivering as much information as possible. He discusses his inspiration for a number of themes found in the film as well as gives his take on what some of the more open-ended scenes are dealing with. This commentary is definitely worth a listen, especially if you find yourself confused after viewing the film.
The next major extra is a series of 7 'Making Of' Videos (18:28) which can be played individually or in sequence. All of the videos are fairly short (the longest is roughly 5 minutes long) but deal with diverse aspects of the film's production. We get a discussion of the film's themes as well as the novelty of going with a feminine noir lead. Positive features of digital filmmaking are also covered along with brief interviews with the director and principal cast members. Rounding out the extras is a set of Trailers for the feature along with a Photo Gallery that is split between 'Production' and going 'Behind the Scenes'.
James Kerwin's Yesterday Was A Lie has many interesting things to say about the nature of love and regret. It chooses to do so with an interesting blend of noir and science fiction but is ultimately undermined by plodding scenes that elect to 'tell' rather than 'show'. Although Kerwin's experiment isn't entirely successful, it is still ambitious enough to warrant a viewing. Rent It.