The Tomorrow Man
by Rachel Willis
I’ve never understood people who prepare for the end of the world: those who stockpile supplies or buy secret caves in the wilderness (I knew a woman) to survive nuclear war or the zombie apocalypse. I’ve always thought if the world ended in some horrible way, I wouldn’t want to stick around. If we’re in a Thunderdome scenario in the future, count me out.
However, in writer/director Noble Jones’s film, The Tomorrow Man, Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow) is readying himself for the inevitable end of days. Spending his time on online message boards, watching the news, and gathering supplies at the local grocery store, he’s as prepared as one can be.
Into his well-organized life comes Ronnie (Blythe Danner). Ed immediately thinks he recognizes the signs of a fellow “prepper” and begins an unusual courtship to which Ronnie is receptive.
The film suffers from an abundance of quirkiness. Jones seems to be trying for a vibe similar to Moonrise Kingdom, but where Wes Anderson wisely chose children to convey the magic of new love, Jones focuses on two elderly adults who act more like children than grown-ups. Watching the two characters connect brings more questions on the wisdom of them living independently than any sweet enjoyment of their budding December/December romance.
Lithgow is endearing as the over-prepared Ed. Divorced and estranged from his grown son, it’s impossible not to root for Ed as he woos Ronnie. However, Danner seems as lost in her role as her character Ronnie is lost in life.
The supporting roles offer very little to the story, and no one is offered any opportunity to grow. These characters are the same people at the end of the film as they were at the beginning. Perhaps if Jones spent less time telling us about all of the characters’ various foibles, we’d get a meatier story.
There are a few comedic moments, but not nearly enough to balance the tedium of watching two peculiar people try to build a relationship. Everything about that relationship, like the film’s idiosyncrasies, feels forced. It’s unfortunate when we’ve seen the formula work before.
Sadly, The Tomorrow Man tries too hard to be something it’s not.