“The Tomorrow Man” is a sweet, entertaining film made all the more engaging and vibrant by its talented stars.
Led by John Lithgow and Blythe Danner, it delivers a gentle, somewhat offbeat love story that unfolds with plenty of subtle humor and a bit of mystery.
Then things take a hard left at the end, and the turn may prove polarizing, depending on the audience.
What’s it about?
Lithgow (“Beatriz at Dinner“) plays Ed, a know-it-all doomsday prepper who seemingly lives to tell others, especially his exasperated adult son Brian (Derek Cecil), what’s coming and just how he knows.
What’s coming? Well, the end of civilization, democracy, life as we know it, all that stuff. He knows because he insists it’s all out there and he, unlike everyone else, spends time digging in the dark corners of the internet finding it all.
But the certainty of his lonely existence gets a shake-up when he meets Ronnie (Danner, “The Chaperone“). He spots her in the grocery store, perceives her to be a kindred spirit — someone else who “knows” — and decides he needs to get to know her.
For her part, Ronnie, who’s a little frazzled in general, finds Ed’s awkward attention jarring at first. But she doesn’t turn him down when he asks her out, and as she gets to know him a curious attraction forms.
Thus begins a charming, almost adolescent courtship. But Ronnie isn’t exactly what Ed perceives her to be, and when the truth comes out it may prove to be more than even the man who believes himself prepared for anything can handle.
All about the leads
“The Tomorrow Man” works as well as it does in no small measure due to its lead performers.
To be fair, it features a solid, often funny script from writer/director Noble Jones, making his feature-length film debut here. Jones’s camera work here is also worth noting — he’s very deliberate with what his lens focuses on, to provide audiences with clues to the film’s lighthearted mysteries and secrets.
Lithgow and Danner, though, take what Jones gives them and lift it into truly enjoyable territory. It’s fun to watch the quirks each performer imbues into their characters’ physicality and how those quirks all provide subtle clues about what’s really going on each of their respective heads.
Together on screen, Lithgow and Danner are a hoot to watch play off of each other. Between Ed’s awkward presumptuousness and Ronnie’s bewilderment, they make for the oddest of couples and eventually all the more charming for all that oddity.
All that said, once the secrets are out and mysteries solved in “The Tomorrow Man,” it progresses pretty much the way classic rom-coms do … right up until a minute before the end credits.
No spoilers here. Just saying the final images Jones chooses to send audiences away with are just as likely to leave them giggling as shaking their heads.
Does that choice make it more difficult to recommend the film? Absolutely not.
In fact, it may be all the more worth seeing just so you can say you know what the “twist” is and can figure out for yourself how you feel about it.
The Tomorrow Man
Starring John Lithgow, Blythe Danner, Derek Cecil, Katie Aselton, Sophie Thatcher, and Eve Harlow. Directed by Noble Jones.
Running time: 95 minutes
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some suggestive material