James vs. His Future Self (Canada, 2019) – GFF4

Back to the past

Director Jeremy Lalonde co-wrote this with his star Jonas Chernick and they’ve produced an agreeable SF-romcom. If the hybrid is unusual the narrative trajectory isn’t: blinkered boy eventually gets the ‘hot’ girl (Cleopatra Coleman). The science fiction element is James’ future self visits his young self, a nerdish scientist, to tell him it’s a mistake to develop time travel because he’ll lose ‘the girl’. The time travel paradox is interestingly dealt with as the future self, Jimmy (Daniel Stern channeling Christopher Lloyd though not as manic), will disappear if his advice is followed. Although formulae abound on chalkboards (they’re retro!) the science, understandably, is as fictional as the narrative and the film barely qualifies as SF.

Fortunately the romcom side has its pleasures, particular Coleman’s Courtney; Coleman is an Aussie and I look forward to seeing more of her. She manages to convey her female exasperation with male stupidity with deft changes of facial expression; the film is very much on her side. However, of course, James is the protagonist and while it’s unfair to chide Lalonde for focusing on the man, we do need more female orientated romcoms (as far as we need them at all).

Frances Conroy is excellent as the demented boss of the lab that James and Courtney work in. She is a truly unhinged creation that portrays the ‘mad scientist’ as both female and old; this is the sort of genre tweak that make can films interesting.

Unfortunately the dynamic of Jimmy seeking his own destruction is not investigated. This isn’t surprising as it would shift the narrative weight onto the older character and the focus, in true romcom fashion, is on the move toward coupledom. There are some good lines: Courtney says her putative partner dresses as if he were higher on the ‘spectrum’ than he actually is. The best scenes are between the two when James, urged on by Jimmy, tries to move his long-standing friendship with Courtney toward sex. She obviously fancies him but is savvy enough to know the switch in the dynamic from friendship to lust (she reckons the moment has long past) is fraught with difficulty. This isn’t investigated in detail, which is unfortunate but then it the number of laughs would have been reduced.

Overall the film’s worth seeing for its offbeat indie vibe; for some reason it reminded me of Killing Jessica Stein (US. 2001), which is indisputably female-orientated.

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