In Mari Walker’s captivating feature debut See You Then, which is currently receiving its world premiere at SXSW Online 2021 until Saturday March 20th, two former lovers, performance artist and teacher Naomi (Lynn Chen) and tech whizz Kris (Pooya Mohseni), are reunited more than a decade after they abruptly broke up and lost touch. In the intervening years Kris has transitioned and Noami, now married with kids, is seeing her as a woman for the first time.
Set over the course of one evening, as the two women become reacquainted over dinner and drinks, followed by a stroll through the town where they were students together, and then revisiting their old college where Naomi now teaches, there’s a tension in what’s unspoken about their history as a couple. With an unhurried pace, the film’s screenplay, co-written by Walker and Kristen Uno, along with the two engaging and authentic central performances, impressively manages to successfully sustain what is on the surface one long conversation in different locations. You never know quite where things will go next as their familiarity with one another is macthed by the awkwardness of having been out of touch for so long.
Award-winning cinematographer Jordan T. Parrott gives the film a distinctive and striking visual style that generally sees everything apart from Kris and Naomi out of focus in any given frame, consequently sharpening our attention on them as viewers while also conveying the deep connection between them and a sense that for this one evening nothing else exists around them (aside from a couple of notable interruptions). There’s a cinematic, almost epic quality to the intimacy between the two women that gives a grand scale to the themes that their discussion explores.
Naomi is filled with the kind of questions many curious cis people might pose to a trans person, some of them come across as intrusive and inappropriate, and they are occasionally poorly phrased, revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be trans; one suspects that much of this is likely drawn from Walker’s own experience as a trans woman. Kris is open about the experience of her-life saving transition, and discusses it with Naomi with frankness, warmth and humour. Although integral to the film, Kris being trans is only one part of what See You Then touches upon, and Kris and Naomi’s conversation is rich and varied, as the women contemplate questions of male privilege, misogyny, and motherhood. What emerges is a poignant reflection on what we all want out of lives as humans; our expectations, desires, and regrets. A memorable, thought-provoking experience.
By James Kleinmann
Mari Walker’s See You Then is playing SXSW Online 2021 until Saturday March 20th.