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Yesterday Was a Lie

Director: James Kerwin
Cast: Kipleigh Brown, John Newton, Chase Masterson, Mik Scriba, Robert Siegel

(Helicon; US DVD: 6 Apr 2010)

“You’re not respecting time.”


“Time never earned my respect.”


For those who have wondered what would happen if a noir detective film got together with a philosophical script determined to ask some serious existential questions about the workings of time in our lives and memories, you need to watch Yesterday Was a Lie. Just because we can’t see the future doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because we think we know the past doesn’t mean we understand our perception of it. As the director puts it, the film uses quantum mechanics as a metaphor for human relationships.


With no scene setting or fanfare, the viewer is plunged into director James Kerwin’s vision. Hoyle (Kipleigh Brown) is a detective determined to find out what is going on with her sense of time, and why she seems to be haunted by mathematical theorems and art imagery laden with references to memory and eternity. Armed with a bottle of bourbon and a keen sense that she’s missing something, the trench-coated Hoyle treks around asking questions and crossing paths with a slippery metaphysicist who may have the answers she thinks she is looking for.


Also present in Hoyle’s investigation is a sultry lounge singer (Chase Masterson) who anticipates some of Hoyle’s questions and seems to have some insider info that she doles out as she deems appropriate. Providing a slow-paced jazz soundtrack to Hoyle’s bar-side musings and the sedative effect of the booze, the singer balances her glamorous femininity with the detective’s brooding seriousness.


Questions about the male and female aspects of the human psyche and the human relationship to the past and future abound. There are definite psychological aspects to the film, with standard Jungian archetypes portrayed by various cast members. Hoyle is trying to use reason to explain her human experience, while the singer character speaks in cryptic references to memory and poetry. With snippets of T. S. Eliot and metaphysical equations colliding in the action as it unfolds, this film certainly does not underestimate the viewer.


We know where we are when we look back at where we’ve been. In Hoyle’s case, however, spur-of-the-moment decisions seem to cause time to branch out, and she questions if she really knows where she has been and what she has experienced.


The genius in styling this film as a black and white detective story is that it doesn’t try to replicate noir of old. Hoyle uses an Apple desktop and receives email from unknown senders that seems to be spam. Contemporary electronic devices complement the sci-fi time traveling plot and the whole thing works because of the hard work of the small cast and the beauty of the visuals.


The film’s progression isn’t linear, and the viewer has to do some mental exercises to try to keep up. The uncertainty of the order of events is part of the intrigue. Yesterday Was a Lie is the perfect antidote to today’s neverending slew of Hollywood romantic comedies, with their predictable love triangles and happy endings. 


The visuals are stunning, with such close attention paid to lighting the actors and the action that the focus of the viewer never wavers. Shot after shot is more beautiful that the last. Alternating crisp action sequences with foggy and mysterious scenes, the film is beautifully orchestrated and sequenced. Kerwin has done an excellent job in challenging viewers with a precise, intricate plot. Our cognitive efforts are rewarded with elegant cinematography and the satisfaction at viewing a contemporary noir-style film that is anything but ordinary.


Extras include an eight-page graphic novel preview, and making-of featurettes and interviews. The passionate way cast members talk about their involvement with the film made me hope they’re right in thinking the time might be right for a wider spread comeback of the noir genre. The corresponding release of the story as a graphic novel is also a contemporary take on portraying the depth and mystery of the noir genre.


This film is highly recommended for those who appreciate a good, dark portrayal of the human psyche. Be warned: it won’t hold your hand.

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Lara co-hosts and produces the tech & social media micro video series, 15secTech. She works in information management after completing a professional Master's program in Library and Information Studies (MLIS) at Dalhousie University in 2010. Lara holds an MA in literature from Durham University (UK), and a BA from Boston College (US) in English and philosophy. She has been writing for PopMatters since 2007. Her favorite authors include Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Jasper Fforde. You can often find Lara on Twitter @larakillian.


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