Eye For Film >> Movies >> James Vs His Future Self (2019) Film Review
James Vs His Future Self
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
If you could go back in time to give advice to your former self, what would you say? This is a common enough question and the chances are that you've thought about it before - but now consider it again with the focus not on what you'd like to say but on what you'd actually say, and how younger you would receive that. Whilst the framework of James Vs His Future Self isn't all that unusual, its approach to its characters and its irreverent attitude make it quite a different experience.
James (Jonas Chernick) is a young physicist developing a new theory of time travel. James (Daniel Stern) - who goes by Jimmy to simplify things - is an older physicist unhappy with his life choices. The future of civilisation may also be at stake, but despite lots of delicious little hints, this is never entirely clear. What is clear - and established with merciful speed - is that Jimmy has travelled back in time to prevent James from making the same mistakes that hid the first time around. The thing is, James doesn't really want to listen.
Why do we make bad decisions? Most of the time it's because they actually seem like a good idea at the time, and second guessing everything just because some old guy from the future says it should be done differently is a pretty miserable way to live. He may be James too, but he has a different set of priorities. He's focused on old people things like appreciating family, taking life slowly and enjoying the little things. James the younger is focused on young people things like making scientific discoveries and building a career. Who's to say if one is objectively right and the other wrong? Should James be setting aside what's important to him now just because some day he'll feel regret? There's a refreshing absence of easy answers in Jeremy LaLonde's film. Both versions of James are dicks in their own ways, mostly to one another, and when they come into conflict it isn't always easy to pick a side.
Released seven years after Richard Curtis'creepily misjudged About Time, this is a film with no patience for time travel antics that centre on finding the right way to seduce a woman. Jimmy is anxious that James should develop a romance with fellow physicist Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman), but if he's learned one thing in his 60 years it's that women have the right to make their own informed choices. As soon as he meets her again it's obvious that he's not going to be able to keep her in the dark, and a tender connection develops between the two of them whilst James blunders around, too obsessed with his own career to pay attention to what's happening in hers.
In the smaller supporting roles there's good work from Tommie-Amber Pirie as James' sister and Tara Spencer-Nairn as a police officer who takes no shit from anyone.. Frances Conroy delivers an interesting turn as the physics professor who's just as obsessed as James is, flighty and slightly unhinged but clearly possessed of a sharp intelligence. LaLonde and Chernick (who co-wrote) never require these capable characters to compromise their intellect for the sake of the story, finding other ways for them to screw up. The comedic interplay between the two leads has that intimate quality like squabbling between family members; they have great chemistry which makes the unlikely relationship between them easy to believe in.
The film is too slow in places, sagging a bit in the middle as it comes to rely too much on the romance, but the witty script delivers plenty of laughs and despite the highbrow subject matter the writers are not afraid of lowbrow humour. Despite the occasional smarter-than-it-looks observation about our possible future, they don't indulge in too much speculation and know when it's best to dodge the subject. As a consequence, this is a film that's likely to stand up pretty well over time, even if you don't feel quite the same way watching it in your sixties as you do (or might have done) in your youth.Reviewed on: 31 Mar 2020