See You Then [SXSW21]

Do you ever wonder what happened to someone once you walk away from them? Where they are now? Who they are? Relationships come and go, some stay with you, the “what if” inhabits your mind, it’s a circle that sometimes you never get closure from. The closure that you might need in order to finally appreciate what is right in front of you. See You Then sets to answer those questions, to try and show how sometimes even after moving on, you don’t truly move on until you get the closure you need. A decade after Kris broke up abruptly with Naomi, the two meet up for dinner to catch up on their complicated lives, relationships, and Kris’ transition. 

See You Then relies on the performance of their two leads who are at the center of everything. Their chemistry, their delivery, their performances, everything relies on them. If Pooya Mohseni does a great job, Lynn Chen (Saving Face) truly steals the film from her. Lynn Chen stole my heart in Alice Wu’s delightful Saving Face, since then, I have been following her career at every turn, watching everything she had been in. After See You Then it is clear that Lynn Chen is not used enough. Every single time the camera lands on her, she captures your imagination, delivers a line like no one else. She is at the center of everything, we just gravitate around her. Every decision she makes proves that she is one of the finest actress working today and that we need to give her her dues. 

A film where the events take place over one night is too often stuck in its premise. Simply not able to go beyond the limitation of a single night, because of that, the film has a lot of justification to do. See You Then is mostly able to avoid falling into some tropes of the one-night film, but it also walks right into others. The film tries its best to justify the characters spending so much time together one night, making excuses, but at times, it feels like the film is just trying too hard. The middle of the film just drags because it starts being impossible to justify all these actions in one night. The film would have benefited by expanding the scope of everything, by making it just a little bit bigger. 

Queer representation takes many forms, and a film like See You Then is so important. It is so rare that we get to see a film that is about the aftermath of a coming out, or in this situation a transition. Kris transitioned almost a decade prior and to be able to do so, she left Naomi behind, without an explanation. It’s a story that just isn’t told enough, but also it’s an important one. Because so much of coming out and transitioning is about yourself and the consequences of that aren’t on your mind at the time, it’s something personal and at times, you need to do it by yourself. But See You Then explores the aftermath, the consequences of said actions. Yes, Kris did what was best for herself, but what about the ones she left behind? What about the questions that were left unanswered? It’s a story that never gets the attention it deserves and See You Then does.

Films that rely on dialogue don’t always work, too often they fall about at the seam and never feel like they are genuine. But See You Then is capable of navigating this with expert hands. Everything that is said has a purpose, but you simply don’t know it until the climactic scene. Filmed in a way that just pulled you in, breaking the norms that have been established during the film, director Mari Walker really creates an emotional state that you can’t escape. That one sequence, that one moment is everything that Walker has been creating, it’s the payoff of a film that may not be perfect but still gets the payoff it deserves. From the lighting to the screenplay, the cinematography and finally the acting, everything just comes together in perfect harmony.

See You Then isn’t perfect, the middle drags on a bit and would have benefited from a bigger scope, but with a satisfying climax and an incredible performance from Lynn Chen, it’s able to escape being just good. It’s a film that explores an aspect of queer life that we just don’t talk about enough and answers the long question of the “What If”. Relationships are hard, but what about the one you have never mourned properly. This is at the core of See You Then and as someone who hasn’t mourned all of her relationships, who still harbours questions, I can appreciate what the film is trying to do.