Chasing Yesterday is a film about second chances. However, it is also a film about first chances. As the debut feature from New Jersey filmmaker Joseph Pernice, the film is a remarkable little dramedy – a minuscule film that pushes forward to keep up with the bigger films at festivals nationwide. It’s a motion picture that is the – much apparent – work of a young filmmaking team, though in the best way: a film that is far from perfect, but so close to the winners circle you cannot help but root for this underdog independent feature.
The film follows Junior (All My Children’s Eric Nelsen), a washed up, former high school track star working in the kitchen of his father’s Asian fusion restaurant and struggling with drug use. A series of mockumentary-style interviews at the film’s beginning serve as a clever – though overplayed – exposition to his glory days as a small town hero. After a minor delivery run accident, Junior meets Jenny (Sharknado 2’s Courtney Baxter), who convinces him to train for the local marathon invitational, despite antagonizing from Junior’s old high school acquaintance Matthew (One Life to Live’s David A. Gregory).
It’s a film that leaves you smiling – a small triumph for its central characters and the team behind the camera.
That last paragraph sounds all too cliché. And in a sense, Chasing Yesterday is very much cliché. Think about Silver Linings Playbook; David O. Russell’s runaway hit was a fable of equivalent contrivance but had the charm to outweigh its standard rom-com beats. Chasing Yesterday earns favorable comparisons as a very low-budget counterpart in both story and sentiment. Pernice’s control over his actors performance is erratic, though, as the film moves forward, the chemistry between Junior and his surrounding characters becomes more and more endearing and the extremes of both Nelsen and Baxter’s performances find a grounding as Chasing Yesterday finds its own footing under Pernice’s more steady sentiment.
Pernice’s own directorial assuredness and hand are apparent as the narrative hits the homestretch. Despite a rather weak climactic race, the emotional core of the movie rings true in the final act. The authenticity of the relationships really clicks and the film’s charm shines through. It’s a film that leaves you smiling – a small triumph for its central characters and the team behind the camera. Chasing Yesterday is an ode to the power of community pushing to achieve the little victories that are only possible with a great team. The team behind Chasing Yesterday are the winners of this motion picture – champions of the low-budget heart.
Chasing Yesterday screened on Tuesday, April 28th at the Newport Beach Film Festival.