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Featured DVD Review: Yesterday Was a Lie

April 24th, 2010

Yesterday Was a Lie - Buy from Amazon

Yesterday Was a Lie was first mentioned on our site in 2005 when it was still in pre-production. It took a while for the film to get made, which is not surprising, as Indie filmmaking is a struggle in the best of circumstances. The final film was shown at a lot of film festivals starting in 2008 and earned a lot of positive reviews. However, it was never able to really earn a theatrical release. For most people, the first chance to see the film will be on the home market. Is it worth hunting down? Or is it a case of a cool concept, but a faulty execution?

Normally with reviews, I follow a formula. There's an intro that appears in the RSS feed summary ("above the fold", as I sometimes refer to it). Then I describe the plot, starting at the beginning of the movie and continuing for as long as I feel comfortable doing so without entering unacceptable spoiler territory. Then I discuss the quality of the movie. Then the extras on the DVD. Then I give my final verdict. However, this movie is a little harder to work with, as the film doesn't start at the beginning and has a non-linnear time frame. The writer / director, James Kerwin, states that while coming up with the story, he wanted to make a movie with no first act. As he described it, 'It's a two-hour movie where you missed the first 30 minutes.' This makes for a unique experience, but it makes my job a lot harder.

With that in mind... Kipleigh Brown stars as Hoyle, an alcoholic detective who might be a cop or might be a P.I.. I'm pretty sure the filmmakers don't know. She's looking for a man, John Dudas, who has a notebook that might explain what is happening to her. Maybe. She's helped out by her partner, Trenchcoat Man, and a jazz singer, Singer, while being followed by a man referred to as Dead Man. You can probably guess his fate.

And that's really all I can say without getting into trouble.

At the surface, this is a Film Noir about a detective looking for a notebook. In the same way, you can say The Maltese Falcon was just a movie about a detective looking for a bird. However, this is a movie that is a lot deeper than any synopsis can accurately describe it. It deals with concepts from quantum mechanics to Carl Jung to alternative dimensions, time travel, etc., etc., etc. It's the kind of film that after watching it you want to watch it again to see if there's something you've missed, something that will help explain what happened. Admittedly, some will be lost by the premise, or uninterested enough to not want to go back and watch it again, but even most of these people should be into the style of the film.

On a side note, I've spent a great deal of time researching the philosophy espoused by this film and its creators, which is essentially an anti-Physicalism point of view. A lot of arguments against Physicalism deal with Qualia or Philosophical zombie. I've read a lot of arguments and I keep coming across a phrase or phrases similar to, "let us suppose." I have a problem with this. If you control all of the variables in a hypothetical experiment, including the introduction of elements you can't prove exist, of course the outcome of this thought experiment is going to agree with your conclusion. If you presuppose there is a consciousness that exists outside of the physical world, of course you can imagine a situation where there are Philosophical zombies that act just like humans but lack the metaphysical quality of humans. But until you prove the external consciousness, you've done nothing to back up your argument. I put these people in the same camp as those that argue torture works because Jack Bauer used it to discover the location of the nuclear bomb that was going to destroy Los Angeles on that episode of 24. In order to prove your theory is correct, you must first create a real world experiment that can prove your theory wrong. Trial by fire, it's the only way.

It is important to note that just as it was in the case of Revolver, the fact that I disagree with some of the philosophical aspects of the movie did not take away from my opinion of this movie. In both cases, these movies are better than their Tomatometer Score would indicate, and this movie earned 67% positive, which is pretty good to start with. It is absolutely worth checking out.

Extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track that is found in the setup menu and not in the special features menu. I hate that. It's a good track and includes the two leads, Kipleigh Brown and Chase Masterson, as well as the writer / director James Kerwin. This track balances entertainment and information well, with an emphasis on the latter. They have a lot to talk about. And this information is balanced between the making of the movie (the casting, how Chase Masterson became a producer, how she balanced her producer credit with acting, filming in black and white, filming with High Definition Digital cameras, etc.) and the philosophical aspect of the movie (Carl Jung, Alchemy, etc.). This is a movie that is worth watching twice, and the second time you should definitely watch it with the audio commentary track. Other extras include a seven-part "making of" featurette that can be watched as one 18-minute featurette. There's some overlap here, but not enough to be a detriment. Finally, there's an 8-page preview for the upcoming graphic novel.

The Verdict

Yesterday Was a Lie only cost $200,000 to make, which is a tiny sum. Tiny even compared to most Indie films. However, it captures the noir style amazingly well and has an incredibly intellectual story to tell. Add in extras that are better than expected for such a small release like this, and it is definitely worth picking up and a contender for Pick of the Week.

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