I love the idea behind SXSW drama See You Then: an intimate character study exploring motherhood, transgenderism, and relationships. It’s in the execution of these themes that it flounders. The film contains a bombshell revelation in the latter half, which could have been so effective if it landed properly. The characters are heavily fleshed out, yet they feel too hollow in which to engage. The script puts harsh emphasis on showy dialogue that dilutes the bigger messages.
Kris (Pooya Mohseni) and Naomi (Lynn Chen) dated in college, and the film opens 10 years after their abrupt separation. Kris, who has recently undergone gender transitioning, invites Naomi out to a dinner where they can reconnect. Deep conversations about their lives, dreams and aspirations for the future make for a night neither of these women will ever forget.
An occasional zinger or two will land (a personal favorite was Naomi’s retaliatory response when hearing about Kris’s sex life: “my vagina just shriveled up”)—still, I wanted more. A vivid dynamic between the leads was vital in telling this tale. It misses the boat, with Pooya Mohseni and Lynn Chen clashing with each other’s energy. Their conversation will be passively entertaining, and then veers off on a turn that gets excessive. Big questions—like whether its more difficult to be trans or a woman out in the world, or what it means to be a mother—arise during the lengthy back-and-forth that don’t go anywhere substantial.
The ending is wholly unsatisfying, and brings the story to a close clumsily. The intent and implications from the ending are touching, despite a mismanaged final act. The heart and soul of this cast and crew is genuine. I can honestly say that although this is one of SXSW’s weaker entries, it isn’t an awful movie. It’s just not completely my cup of tea, with the heavy amount of dialogue giving an improvisational feel that was hard to get behind. Director Mari Walker’s skate through personal topics is missing that something extra to elevate it above traditional indie drama fare. See You Then debuted at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.