I’m a big Back to the Future fan. If it isn’t my top film of all time, it’s at least in my top 5. What I like about Back to the Future is that it is a time travel film that really has nothing to do with science or time travel at all. The Delorean Marty McFly used to travel from 1985 to 1955 was simply a device to tell a larger story about what life was like for his parents and thematically how we should recognize their lives as humans and not simply as the mom and dad we see them as during our teen years. While Back to the Future recognizes the past as a way to tell us who we are, the new Jeremy LaLonde film, JAMES VS HIS FUTURE SELF, is a story planted in recognizing the present.
Early on the film, James, a super-smart young scientist (Jonas Chernick) sits down with an older version of himself (Daniel Stern). They discuss the future James will have and this older version, nicknamed Jimmy, warns of the unfulfilling life James will have by consuming himself with his work. This idea is represented over a croissant. Jimmy asks James to slow down and not devour the croissant, but to take a small bite of it and let it melt on his tongue.
This idea of living in the moment is something we could all really use as life in the 21st century tends to be fast and furious. This lesson, like in real life, is a challenge for James. He has never come to terms with family tragedies of his youth, had any sort of love life despite having a crush on his coworker (Cleopatra Coleman), and outside of work, his only true long term bond is with his sister who is reluctant to continue being a motherly figure to her brother.
I also need to be clear. I don’t see JAMES VS HIS FUTURE SELF becoming the pop culture phenomenon that Back to the Future became, but it certainly is a small gem of a film. This is the fifth feature film by Jeremy LaLonde who wrote, directed, and edited this film. It is clearly a passion project in the same vein as Robert Zemekis with Back to the Future. This film feels like it was made by a storyteller with something to prove. LaLonde has been a comedy film and sketch show director for his entire career but I would never describe this film as a comedy. Yes, there are comedic moments between characters as you’d expect when meeting an older or younger version of yourself, but tension builds quickly in this film thanks to an outstanding performance by Daniel Stern.
Stern has also been known as a comedic actor his entire career. When thinking of a Daniel Stern film, you’d probably jump to something like Home Alone or City Slickers. You know, films that were made over 20 years ago, but now in his 60s, Daniel Stern is proving that he has more to offer than slapstick humor. His intensity is similar to that of John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane. As a familiar face in the film, you can’t help but smile seeing him bring a few comedic lines, but Stern quickly flips the script on the audience, showcasing his anger and frustration with how his life ended up. That tension doesn’t stop building either as Stern becomes more and more hellbent on doing whatever it takes to fix his past in order to live a better future.
JAMES VS HIS FUTURE SELF has already received nominations for the Canadian Screen Awards that include Best Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Supporting Actor for Stern. That goes to show this little film could have some legs as it gets set to debut sometime in the future when there isn’t a pandemic shutting down every major movie theater. Honestly, I’d write this one down as a film to look forward to when we do eventually see it hit theaters or if it goes straight to an on-demand service. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the hour and a half ride and you’ll probably want to eat a croissant while you watch it.
JAMES VS HIS FUTURE SELF will be available on Video On Demand and Digital HD on May 1, 2020.