John Lithgow and Blythe Danner add a quirky twist to this love story.
Romance dramas can be a genre that often lacks originality or innovation. It’s predicated on the strength of the chemistry and casting of its central characters and that is once again the case with The Tomorrow Man. Noble Jones’ newest film follows the story of Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow), a retired worker on the wrong side of 60, who believes in the inevitability of an imminent disaster. He now spends his life obsessed with preparing for the event and the fallout from it.
The film opens with Ed on the phone with his son Brian (Derek Cecil), lecturing him on the need to prepare for the inevitable, whatever it may be. Ed is thoroughly convinced that danger is just on the horizon and does what he can to be ready. During one of his routine visits to the local grocery store he spots a woman who catches his eye. Working up the courage to speak to her, he introduces himself and learns her name is Ronnie (Blythe Danner).
Immediately smitten by her, Ed pursues a relationship with Ronnie, and slowly he allows her into his world and all his secrets. It’s during this blooming relationship that Ed begins to learn how to live in the now, rather than constantly obsess about a future that may or may not come to pass.
If there’s one word to describe The Tomorrow Man, it’s sweet. It’s hard to watch this and not feel some sort of way about the charming romance blooming between John Lithgow’s Ed and Blythe Danner’s Ronnie. More cynical audiences may view it as saccharine due to how smitten Ed is, but for others, Ed’s attempts at wooing Ronnie will come off as adorable.
Much of that success boils down to the lead performances of Lithgow and Danner. Both deliver fantastic performances that play into their strengths as actors to bring out and normalize the eccentricities of their characters. In lesser hands both Ed and Ronnie’s quirks may have been portrayed as off-putting and creepy, but in the hands of Lithgow and Danner, their oddball pairing is sweet and heartwarming. In that regard, their chemistry makes the growth and development of their relationship as compelling as can be over the course of its brisk hour-and-a-half runtime.
However, as wonderfully charming as Lithgow and Danner are, the base foundation of the film isn’t much to write about. The Tomorrow Man follows all the ebbs and flows that typically go into romance dramas, and beat for beat each high and low becomes a predictable rhythm that slowly builds up to its inevitable climax. The film doesn’t head into melodramatic territory, but it also just feels a little too contrived for the purposes of its story. The only genuine surprise the film offers is in the last 30 seconds at the end. However, it’s an ending that feels counterintuitive to what the film was trying to convey through its first hour and 30 minutes.
In spite of its third act, The Tomorrow Man is an easily enjoyable film that doesn’t require too much of an investment. It’s a solid showcase for John Lithgow and Blythe Danner’s talents and serves as a reminder of how gifted both actors are. The film may not be the most original romance drama out there, but it’s quirky enough to merit a watch. ~Paolo Maquiraya
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