Bentonville Review: See You Then
Mari Walker’s See You Then offers a clinic in how to bring a creative, distinctive visual style to a conversation piece. If only the conversation were better.
See You Then follows a former couple, Naomi (Lynn Chen) and Kris (Pooya Mohseni), over the course of a single night as they reminisce and confront old wounds, meeting up for the first time in over a decade since Kris walked out on Naomi without explanation. Kris has since transitioned, and she initiated the reunion, eager to learn about Naomi’s life and family. Naomi is alternatingly reluctant and eager; guarded from her past pain and vulnerable with someone she once loved. The pair change locations throughout, but See You Then is almost entirely an emotional colloquy.
Mari Walker impresses as a visual storyteller. These types of movies tend to be described as “play-life,” but See You Then is surprisingly cinematic. The first time old heartache comes bursting out of Naomi, the camera is seemingly knocked off its axis, shooting off-kilter and upwards at both Naomi and her dinner partner. The pair has moved from conversation to verbal sparring, and Walker’s style adjusts accordingly. Later, in the film’s overheated climax, Walker uses an art studio to create a color palette that mirrors the emotional volatility, and even relies on blocking and framing to physically obscure two individuals who have hidden so much from one another. It’s a bravura bit of filmmaking.
Though visually impressive, See You Then’s script lets it down. The dialogue is periodically clunky - and not just the type of awkward that comes with seeing an ex-flame after your lives have gone separate ways. It’s serviceable - not so bad that it distracts, but not good enough to pull you into this relationship. Independent films often rely on talkie scripts that keep costs down, and yet these are often the toughest to pull off, because so much of the focus is placed on one of the hardest things to get right. This could have been forgiven, if not for the previously mentioned climactic sequence - an overwrought, overblown fight with a savage streak of malice that is both unnecessary and unearned. The argument illuminates very little about these two characters beyond basic facts, and its repetitive nature offers no insight into the relationship, instead providing only a superficial excuse to heighten the situation as much as possible.
See You Then proves that Mari Walker is an exciting director - I hope her next script allows her to live up to that potential.