Sci-fi stars team up to solve a murder in the film noir Yesterday Was a Lie

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

When sci-fi or fantasy films spend time on the independent film festival circuit, it's usually because they're not ready for wide release—even if two of the film's actresses happen to be Star Trek alumni and their co-star once played a Wookiee.

But James Kerwin's Yesterday Was a Lie, which has both festival acclaim and sci-fi street cred, is a rare exception to that remarkably consistent rule: written and directed by Kerwin, the sci-fi noir is a movie of intelligence, imagination and mostly beautiful execution, which is why Yesterday Was a Lie is not quite a success, but far more than a respectable failure.

Kipleigh Brown (Enterprise) plays Hoyle, a hard-boiled but beautiful detective hired to track down her former lover Dudas (John Newton). She discovers that the nearer she gets to him, the less her universe literally seems to make sense. In the meantime, she strikes up a friendship with a buxom chanteuse named Singer (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Chase Masterson) and finds herself being followed by a mysterious Dead Man (Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew).

Because it's simultaneously a murder mystery, a love story, a film noir tribute and a dissertation on the meaning of "reality," audiences may have more than a few lingering questions after watching Yesterday Was a Lie. It's possible that the movie provides a few answers, but they're not easy to find, and Kerwin seems reluctant to offer concrete explanations; accordingly, Yesterday sometimes proves as maddening as it does fascinating. It's worth noting that the writer-director graduated to movie-making after spending several years studying lofty concepts like string theory, which is but one of the complicated ideas the film tries to convey in its mash-up of genres.

Additionally, the film was shot with the same high-definition cameras that George Lucas used for his Star Wars prequels, and it looks gorgeous. But like Lucas' films, Kerwin's "vision" has a surplus of ideas and a shortage of the finesse required to make it relatable—at least to folks who don't have degrees in quantum physics. (In other words, Kerwin went straight for Matrix: Revolutions without providing The Matrix to ease us into his imaginary world.) Because Yesterday relishes its philosophical foundations, it often forgets that the purpose of movies is first and foremost to entertain, and scenes sometimes drone on to the point of incomprehensibility.

At the same time, the fact that the film inspires so many questions is one of its biggest virtues. It's obvious that Kerwin wants his audience to wonder what it's all about—not just in the movie, but in real life. While that introspection may not prove lasting, one can't help but admire a film that provokes deeper thought, even if its execution leaves some things to be desired.

The film is currently sealing a distribution deal, and it should debut on screens nationwide by the end of the year, but in the meantime, Yesterday Was a Lie is an interesting experiment precisely because it suggests that with or without help from its director, you still might find the truth tomorrow.