In James Vs His Future Self, a time travel-obsessed scientist receives a visit from his future self. Jeremy LaLonde’s sci-fi comedy is entertaining, heartwarming and human.
If you had the chance to meet a much older and more experienced version of yourself, would “future you” still be the same person you are today? And, if your future self told you that the rest of your life is about to be influenced by a series of bad choices that you’re about to make in the present, would you listen to yourself or would you repeat your mistakes? The premise for Jeremy LaLonde’s James Vs His Future Self is, indeed, a very compelling idea. Part sci-fi drama and part comedy, this story about time travel begins when uptight scientist James (Jonas Chernick) receives a visit from a sixty-something year old version of himself (Home Alone‘s Daniel Stern) – a Ghost of James Yet To Come that has gone back in time to prevent him from making the worst decision of his life: creating a time machine.
Yet, when future James – who will later come to be known as “Jimmy” – warns his younger self that discovering time travel will isolate him to such an extent that he will lose everything he ever cared about, our protagonist’s reaction is not quite what we’d expect it to be. And who can blame him for not trusting this stranger, after all: not only do these two versions of James not look very much alike, but their personalities are quite the opposite. If young James is rational, awkward and obsessed with his future, Jimmy is charismatic, self-aware and determined to change his own past. Which is precisely what makes their interactions both intriguing and surprisingly hilarious.
It’s in the complicated relationship between its two protagonists that James Vs His Future Self shines: Chernick, who also co-wrote the film, is in his comfort zone playing a character who doesn’t quite know how to express his own emotions, and it’s easy to sympathise with James as we follow him on his journey of self-discovery. Yet, it’s Stern who steals the show with an impressive performance that provides plenty of laugh-out-loud moments but also has a great deal of heart. As new characters are introduced – including love interest Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman) and eccentric Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr. Rowley (played by Joker‘s Frances Conroy), the narrative unfolds in a way that is as clever as it is entertaining, while also allowing for a wider reflection on the meaning of life.
James Vs His Future Self is an enjoyable drama that brings past and future together in order to teach us to appreciate the present. Not only is it guaranteed to make you laugh, but it will entertain you with high quality performances and a story that flows quite well, also thanks to technical aspects such as photography, editing and sound. At the same time, there is a certain lack of coherence in the narrative that sometimes calls for twists that are not entirely unexpected, and that mainly comes from its attempt to be too many things – a comedy, a sci-fi drama and a rom-com – at once. If the film’s heartwarming message makes it easy for the audience to overlook its flaws, James Vs His Future Self also sometimes feels like a missed opportunity, and that is a real shame.
So what is it, then, that makes us who we are? Perhaps it’s the mistakes we make, or maybe it’s the way memories of our past ultimately shape our future. James Vs His Future Self tackles these questions in a charming, clever way, showing us what it means to be human while also making us laugh with hilarious interactions. Though it’s not a perfect movie, it’s certainly an enjoyable one, and a must-see for sci-fi fans.
James Vs His Future Self will premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on Wednesday, 4th March, and the screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Jeremy LaLonde and star Jonas Chernick.