E1 Entertainment // 2008 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // May 19th, 2010
The Most Powerful Force in the Universe Lies Within the Depths of the Human Heart.
A bourbon-swilling investigator, Hoyle (Kipleigh Brown, Relative Strangers), is on the track of a reclusive genius, Dudas (John Newton, Alive). As the search continues, Hoyle begins to notice that things aren't quite right; not only is she experiencing déjà vu, but she's having visions of an odd room, decorated only with Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory. As the mystery deepens, she finds an unlikely ally in the form of a bar singer (Chase Masterson, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who also produced this film) who seems to know more about the situation -- and about Hoyle -- than she lets on. Hoyle finds herself confronting a dead man (Peter Mayhew, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), her cat Schrödinger, and her own memories as she travels down a path to discover what happens when love collides with quantum mechanics.
I swear to God I am not making this up.
Yesterday Was a Lie is an ambitious film, taking the elements of film noir, cranking them up a notch or two and then using those elements to take the story in a decidedly different direction. Initially, the black-and-white noir elements seem waaay over the top, but once the plot gets going, the noir excess actually works in its favor. The film has great atmosphere, in large part to the wonderful jazz score by Kristopher Carter, supplemented by some strong vocal performances by Chase Masterson. And you have to give the filmmakers credit for trying to make a more challenging film.
Unfortunately, the story tosses out so many ciphers, symbols, and clues that it's impossible to fit them together into a coherent narrative. It's not enough to keep throwing out ciphers; at some point the signifier has to link to the signified. The easiest explanation is that everything we see is actually taking place in Hoyle's subconscious, but that seems too trite an explanation to be satisfying. (Granted, that might not be the interpretation the filmmakers had in mind, but they note in the commentary track that the film can be interpreted in many ways, thus demonstrating that the sword of phenomenology cuts both ways.)
The supporting cast does well enough, but Kipleigh Brown doesn't really have the presence or the acting chops to carry the film. Writer/director James Kerwin envisioned the character as a Lauren Bacall type in a Bogart role, and visually it works. However, Brown isn't convincing as an investigator, and more often than not, her line readings are wooden. Chase Masterson, on the other hand, turns in a strong performance, somehow managing to be both warm and inscrutable. If you've ever wanted to know what Peter Mayhew looks like under Chewbacca's mask -- he's kinda creepy. However, when you're playing a dead guy, that works in your favor.
Video is excellent; Kerwin and cinematographer Jason Cochard create a surreal noir world, using the black-and-white palette to great effect. The court has already noted the soundtrack, but the overall sound is effective as well, using the surround field to highlight ambient sounds to enhance the mood. There are a number of short featurettes with the cast and the director; they give a little more insight into the film, but in many cases the insights simply complicate matters. The commentary track, featuring Brown, Masterson, and Kerwin, offers some hints here and there, but is more interesting for the production details. You also get a couple of trailers. Notably missing is an isolated music track -- as noted before, the score is great (sadly, a soundtrack is not available).
Yesterday Was a Lie was produced for about $200,000, which is quite astounding in this day and age. While the film has a lot of merit, the story, alas, does not.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Official Site