Those of you who read my reviews will recognize the name of Chris Esper. I have been lucky enough to have hi ask me to review his short films and while for many this can be something of a chore, watching and writing about an Esper film has always been a pleasure for me. I have never met Chris; I only know him from his cinematic output and feel honored to review his work. His film “Yesteryear” came about as he was converting some of his home movies of my own, having been forced to quarantine because of Covid 19. All of us spent time remembering happier times even though the pandemic has left people us unhappy and often depressed. Esper’s goal was to present “better times” as a way “to bring positivity in a time of uncertainty and to celebrate the positives life has to offer.” He reached out to folks and managed to get home movies, found some footage online, and had his own. He then edited about 10 hours of footage into a 15-minute film with a beautiful musical score by Steven Lanning-Cafaro.
What Esper brings us is amixture of archive material and home movie footage, in a visual documentary that uses the past to make us feel good in a world where it is now hard to do so. The film is an autobiographical approach to a narrative of his and others; families. Home films are records of our lives yet we often forget about them. I was reminded of the days of VCRs when I would record everything “for later” but later never came. I seldom, if ever, watched what I recorded but kept them just in case. Think about how many home movies have ended up that way. Home movies usually are taken in the moment and then stored until it is time to clean the attic. If we ever watch them again, they come across as silly and juvenile and “what was I thinking”?
Esper went through sorting and deciding which were the best and the happiest moments to be saved in “Yesteryear”. I was amazed at the power that came across the screen. The film contains some very important family moments and reflect the happy and the quiet moments of family life. . Esper chose clips from his own home video collection and we see births, parties, trips, celebrations and other personal expressions. Above all we see love.
Even though I don’t know any of the people in the film, I was able to transfer what I saw to my own family. I love that “Yesteryear” is non-linear making it almost like reading in the stream of consciousness. I was emotionally touched by what I saw (and will see again). Unfortunately, the similar time that we all yearn for seems to be lost forever so we must be thankful that we have memories like the ones we see here.