I’ve always liked John Lithgow, despite some of the questionable film choices he’s made – did you see Pitch Perfect 3? No thank you! His name, along with Blythe Danner, was enough to pique my interest in writer and director Noble Jones’ new film The Tomorrow Man (2019), which was being played at the Gasparilla International Film Festival. Sometimes, going into a movie blind turns out to be a horrible decision – but this film worked me roughly one hundred percent, and it is unquestionably one to add to your watch list.
The Tomorrow Man is charming and features excellent performances from its two leads
Ed (Lithgow) spends his retirement preparing for the impending disaster…at least the disaster that he is convinced is impending. He communicates with his son over the phone and a group of like-minded people on the internet…but otherwise, he spends much of his time alone. However, all of that changes when he meets Ronnie (Danner), who shops at the same supermarket as he does – and they seem to be stockpiling similar items. After orchestrating a meeting with her, the two discover a common need: human connection.
People running can be absolutely hilarious. I’m sure Jones isn’t the first director to make this discovery, but he uses it effectively at least twice in this film. At our screening, the crowd and I cackled obnoxiously in both instances of this gag. The first one involves Ed and Ronnie driving home in his old Ford truck. She gets the radio working, and starts singing a song. He looks uncomfortable and finally swerves the truck to the side of the road and just runs away. Jones shoots it from Ronnie’s seat, framing Ed in the driver side door as he runs across the empty field. It all congeals in a delightful moment between the two characters in a powerful way.
Ronnie and Ed are absolutely delightful. The film rests fully on the chemistry and charm the characters are able to deliver. Lithgow is outstanding in his role. He is sympathetic, charming, frustrating, and extremely nuanced. He obsesses over the news, and even hears the anchor speak directly to him in a few scenes. It’s initially unclear exactly what Jones is going for with this choice, as there are a few different meanings that can be inferred – but the payoff of it is all the more powerful. However, Lithgow isn’t required to do all the heavy lifting.
Danner reminded me last year how much I enjoy her in films with Hearts Beat Loud (2018), but that was much more of a supporting role. While she isn’t the lead here either, she gets much more to do, and her character is truly integral to the plot. The connection that Ronnie makes with Ed after he forces a meeting in the parking lot of that grocery store by parking his truck too close to her driverside door gives her a wealth of opportunity for a dynamic range in her performance. Initially, Ronnie is creeped out by Ed’s forced conversation, but she is too kind to be rude. This meeting is followed by another forced one, after he follows her to her job and asks her on a date. Here, she softens slightly and we are given the hint that she is lonely, too. Both actors give charming performances, and make this film really stand out.
I don’t want to give too much away about The Tomorrow Man, but the story works really well. It was a heartfelt film with a good sense of humor. I had no idea what it was going to be, but I really enjoyed almost every minute of it. If you get a chance to see it, go see it…or at the very least, add it to your watchlist so you don’t forget. I give The Tomorrow Man the Must See rating.