Just Wait For It: Our Review of ‘The Tomorrow Man’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 06, 2019
Just Wait For It: Our Review of ‘The Tomorrow Man’

The Tomorrow Man is a curious little romantic drama from director Noble Jones, who also serves as the writer and director of photography. Ed (John Lithgow) is a paranoid obsessive convinced of some unclear yet certain impending apocalypse. He rations his medication, choosing to spend his meager severance income on stocking his home-made fallout shelter with supplies before whatever doomsday can occur. Quickly, he meets Ronnie (Blythe Danner) at the grocery store, believing that her use of cash and her purchases of specific items suggests that she is a fellow “traveler” or “prepper”. What follows is an incredibly awkward courtship which, while feeling a little rushed, stays very true to the characters’ quirks.

The film has a very small cast, with only six characters having main speaking roles. Danner and Lithgow both turn in wonderful, nuanced performances imbued with heart and vulnerability. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Ronnie and her teenage co-worker Tina (Eve Harlow) in a reversal of the conventional elderly-to-youth wisdom. However, Ed’s relationship with his somewhat estranged son Brian (Derek Cecil) – and the family drama therein which goes nowhere – lacks emotional impact.

As the couple become closer, we learn that Ronnie is a hoarder, and this is when the film starts to become very frustrating. Ronnie yearns to understand Ed’s obsession and paranoia, and Ed wants to help Ronnie purge her long-accumulated “stuff”. The movie glosses over these potential mental health issues with the rather shallow platitude that love and acceptance can conquer all. We’re never given insight to understand why these characters are the way they are, we’re just expected to accept that this awkward, but undeniably adorable romance will solve everything.

The dialogue in the film is actually quite strong. The interplay between Ronnie and Ed is cute, cumbersome, and feels very real, particularly for a pair of 60-somethings that haven’t been on the dating scene in perhaps decades. There are moments that become extremely uncomfortable (Ed telling Ronnie that she has a man’s name), but these moments have their own charm.

What kills The Tomorrow Man is its final act. Ed endures a hardship which causes him to rethink his existence, and there are moments of reflection and empowerment which come across as very honest and true. But the final minutes of the film introduce a beat that is so out of left-field that I was left wondering what the point of the movie was. We’ve spent all this time under the impression that love and being oneself is paramount, and then this final coda, this baffling ending, completely negates Ed’s entire character arc. Perhaps it was meant as a fantasy sequence, perhaps it was intended to be a profound moment, but it comes across as a sensationalist twist.

The Tomorrow Man is by no means a terrible film. It boasts some solid dialogue and a couple very strong performances. But the movie treats its leads’ psychological disorders as quirks or eccentricities that can be overcome by love, which feels hollow, naive, and precious in a way that simply doesn’t work.

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