In our current climate, honesty seems to be lost in the average conversation. Today’s human beings feel as if they bring up any subject, eggshells could be shattered as each word is spoken. But what if you could just be yourself, and talk to those who were impactful to your life and tell them everything you thought about them, then maybe we could all be our best selves. That’s what Mari Walker’s See You Then does with her two characters at the center of this sincere drama about two people who reunite for the first time in over a decade.
We follow Kris (Pooya Mohseni) and Naomi (Lynn Chen), who were once in a long term relationship, till Kris left abruptly, leaving Naomi in the cold. It’s revealed that the reason Kris left was because she realized she was transgendered, and during the time in between the breakup and the film’s events, fully transitioned from a man into a woman. Throughout the under 80-minute run time, we hear both sides of this story, with both women feeling as if the relationship could’ve ended on better terms. But there are truths discovered over many drinks and arguments that don’t paint either character as sympathetic.
In a lot of ways, we are there to watch these two people lay all their cards on the table and see why things didn’t work out. From the moment we met them, there is a coldness presented and we can’t shake it. It’s where the film shines, showing us that just because these two women are reunited and talking doesn’t mean it’s going to end with hugs and roses. Clearly, Naomi is uncomfortable about letting Kris back into her life, especially after the ending of their multi-year relationship. And Kris is still not necessarily comfortable around her or most people, as we see her silent around other characters we meet. But the question is, why are they talking at all?
Well, it stems from what all people want when there are questions lingering from their past; they want complete clarity. And since Kris just broke up with her first boyfriend since her transition, it is par for the course that she would want to reach out to Naomi and try to patch up the past. There is a sequence at a bar that is captivating, with Walker nudging the audience to the edge of their seats as both Kris and Naomi open up more and more to one another. We learn it wasn’t Kris’s transition that destroyed the couple, but more the aftermath of it and how it affected both of their lives. It’s heartbreaking to see both women acknowledge what they had and how it is all gone, but they never imply that they regret the road in how they got across the table to talk to one another again. This is where Mohseni and Chen shine the brightest, especially Mohseni, who seems to bring in a real life experience to Kris since she is a trans-actor. It’s a very authentic performance that we just don’t get to see made a lot today, one that feels personal and quietly layered.
As for Chen, she beautifully captures Naomi’s trepidations and frustrations with Kris throughout the film. She’s so reserved, as if she already knows how this night is going to end, and really doesn’t want to receive answers from Kris. Trust is broken for her, and no number of glasses of wine could fix that. But she comes with her truth, tells her peace, and doesn’t look back. She knows it won’t solve everything, but in the end, you can tell a weight has been lifted off her shoulders. The film leaves her to confront everything in the best way she could, through her passion for art and the family she has developed over her time away from Kris. The ending showcases both women at peace, still torn by the night’s events, but in better places due to finally facing the truth and embracing how these events changed their lives for the better.
See You Then is a showcase for two actresses and the genuine dialogue they are presented with. More films like this need to be made, where its honest characters speak about the issues of life that we normally don’t get to see on the big screen. The hope is that with a picture like this, more can be made, on a grander scale. But until this, this simple yet effective drama will do.
This review is from the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
Photo: Shweta Singh