Careful What You Wish For: Our Review of ‘James Vs. His Future Self’

Posted in Movies, VOD/iTunes/DigitalDownload by - April 02, 2020
Careful What You Wish For: Our Review of ‘James Vs. His Future Self’

Co-writer and director Jeremy LaLonde’s James vs. His Future Self is a comedy, science fiction drama that, aside from its concept and some technical jargon, mostly eschews its sci-fi elements in favor of a more human story that focuses on relationships and personal growth. 

In the film’s timeline, James (Jonas Chernick, the film’s other co-writer) is a brilliant young physicist that is developing a theorem that could lead to time travel. His obsession however causes him to become estranged from his sister Meredith (Tommie-Amber Pirie), and his unrequited love and colleague Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman). When Jimmy (Daniel Stern), a grizzled, older version of James from the future travels back in time to warn James that his obsession with the technology will cost him his relationship with Meredith and ruin any chances he has of love with Courtney, James must learn to live in the moment and appreciate what he has. 

I want to be clear off the top here, this isn’t really a time travel movie, at least not in the vein of something like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We don’t see anyone travel through time. Whatever time traveling Daniel Stern’s version of the character does takes place before the start of the film. Rather, this movie discusses the implications of time travel. Not on science or the world, but on a personal level for one man. As such, it doesn’t spend a lot of time getting bogged down with the pseudo-science of it all, instead choosing to tell a very human story.

I really enjoyed this film. While it’s not absolutely hilarious, it is funny, and I had a few really good laughs. The romance is genuinely sweet when it’s working, and genuinely sad when it’s not. There is a date scene which I found absolutely heartfelt and cute. 

Daniel Stern is wonderful in this movie. His character gets the biggest laughs, and has some really beautiful dramatic moments as well. I’m a fan of Cleopatra Coleman, particularly from her work on The Last Man on Earth (a series that ended way too soon), and I thought she was great in the film. Admittedly, as an Australian actress, she’s affecting a North American accent which is a little shaky at times. But once I got in step with that, I really liked her performance. It was nuanced, ferocious, and vulnerable. Jonas Chernick as the younger version of James was problematic for me. And it’s no fault of the actor, but I was getting strong Fred Armisen vibes to the point of distraction. That said, I liked his performance, and he had an awkward sensibility that I found endearing. 

I didn’t see a lot of similarities between Chernick and Stern, despite them playing different versions of the same character. I was hoping for something in the cadence of their voices, or perhaps their mannerisms. And there were flashes of that – but I would have liked more. I enjoyed what Frances Conroy did with her character, though she has precious little screen-time.

I do feel like the movie overcooked it a little in the climax, which became a bit whacky (not that the movie ever takes itself too seriously). For a film that was more human drama to take a rather abrupt third-act shift into somewhat goofy sci-fi was a bit jarring. But that is juxtaposed with a couple very tender moments that admittedly had me legitimately choked up. Further, the movie does get a little schmaltzy towards the end. But it earns that schmaltz in a way that worked for me. The very ending of the film absolutely engaged me. And while I wouldn’t call it a twist, it was something that I wasn’t expecting, and I enjoyed that about it.

James vs. his Future Self is a good time, particularly because it’s not your average time travel flick. It has some wonderful human ideas, strong performances, and some good laughs. And if I haven’t made this clear earlier, it also features Daniel Stern, which is always a good thing.

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