Yesteryear documentary review

★★★★

Directed by: #ChrisEsper

Film Review by: Darren Tilby



A film of incredibly simple construction, Chris Esper’s short documentary, Yesteryear, consists entirely of home video footage. But it’s with this simplicity that Yesteryear finds its strength. There’s no better way to explore family than with a collection of people’s self-recorded memories, lovingly weaved together in contemplation of life, love and family.


We’re taken through many an occasion here, and all the usual life events: birthday celebrations, Christmases, new years, the joy of new life and the pain of a life passing. While it doesn’t sound so different from the plethora of other films out there, it’s the fact that these aren’t actors, they’re real people. We’re getting an intimate look into the lives of other people; a window into their hopes and dreams told through a lifetime of their memories. There’s something profoundly moving about that, and it feels like a genuine privilege.


The flow of the movie is almost perfect, and I love the fact the film is non-linear. Esper’s superb editing does wonders in making, what could have been an unfathomable mess, feel not only incisive and accessible but entirely personal to the viewer. It immediately evokes memories of our childhood or, for the older viewer to our children’s youth. When combined with Steven Lanning-Cafaro’s magnificent musical score, it tugs – quite thoroughly – at the heartstrings.


There’s a quite brilliance to Yesteryear. It lies within how ordinary, typical, unassuming and almost mundane, it all is. Absolutely anyone watching will, in some way, be able to relate to much of what’s onscreen. We’ve all got home videos like this, and we’ve all had many of the same experiences, too. Little things like this that may seem unimportant, uninteresting, even, are priceless memories to someone. Yesteryear reminds us of this fact. It reminds us that life is more than just what’s happening in the present, it’s also what’s in our past; the events, ordeals and adventures that have shaped who we are.


Esper’s movie is a fantastically moving piece of short filmmaking and one of the most fascinating, emotive and wholly poignant documentaries I’ve ever seen. I doubt there’s been a more honest and loving testament about family ever made. Simply stunning.