The Tomorrow Man **

John Lithgow and Blythe Danner share an affable chemistry, but tonal issues leave the film missing its mark.  

Is it worth $10? No 

“The Tomorrow Man” attempts to be about many things, and succeeds at few. Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow), a divorced retiree living on his own, spends most of his money on a secret bunker inside his house that will shelter him during the coming apocalypse. This is not a foreseen apocalypse by anyone else, mind you – it is merely based on Ed’s paranoia that life on Earth is coming to an end. As far as character development goes, this is as poor as it gets. You can’t base a movie on a character’s eccentric belief without giving him a reason to think it!

Ed meets a kindred spirit, or so he believes, in Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner). She’s a widow who also lost her daughter to a rare disease. She buys things she’ll never have a use for, and doesn’t throw anything away. She’s lonely. Ed is a loner. At first he sort of stalks her, but she relents and spends time with him. Turns out he’s a pretty good guy, and they grow to care for one another.

In terms of the romance and emotional fulfillment shared by two otherwise isolated people, it’s a sweet story. They’ve found someone who cares for them, someone to share their life with. The deeper themes, however, struggle for relevance, and as a result the whole movie suffers.

Is writer/director Noble Jones saying if we worry so much about tomorrow that we’ll forget to embrace today? Is he saying if we dwell so much in the past we’ll forget to enjoy the present? Is he encouraging us to not be rigid, and accept the lifestyles of others? Is he reminding us that love can be found at any age if we open ourselves up to it? Or does he simply want us to accept family and friends for who they are, flaws and all?

The film feels like all these things and none of them, and never settles in to an identity or tone it’s willing to embrace. There are intriguing ideas here, but the execution never allows them to pay off in a meaningful way. It all leads to a weak and predictable ending that doesn’t come soon enough.   

To their credit, Lithgow is solid as the old coot with a warm heart (he’s played this role plenty of times), and Danner is sweet and endearing as the woman who strikes his fancy (she’s played this role plenty as well). Their chemistry is affable and easy, that of two screen veterans who know what they’re doing and how to do it. You would think that with all their combined experience they would’ve recognized the shortcomings in Jones’ script, and demanded changes accordingly (this is Jones’ feature film directorial debut).

For all its end-of-the-world posturing, there’s also a levity and ease in “The Tomorrow Man” that doesn’t quite fit. This story probably would’ve worked better as a straight drama with a few moments of comic relief; as is it plays like a comedy-drama, and everything feels off.

Did you know?
Per Danner has 112 acting credits since she began her career in 1968; Lithgow has 118 acting credits since he began his career in 1972.

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