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Review: James vs. His Future Self

April 3, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The latest film from Canadian director Jeremy LaLonde, who previously made the raunchy comedies The Go-Getters and How to Plan An Orgy in a Small Town, James vs. His Future Self is not only his highest concept film as of yet, but also quite possibly his sweetest.

James (Jonas Chernick) is a nerdy scientist who lives with his sister Meredith (Tommie-Amber Pirie), and spends most of his time away from work in the garage, obsessively trying to figure out the equation for time travel. James is so consumed by his work, that he is seemingly oblivious to the advances of his co-worker and only friend, Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman).

But James is given a reality check one night when he is visited by Jimmy (Daniel Stern), the future version of himself, who informs him that yes, he was able to successfully invent time travel, but the discovery came at the expense of everything else in his life. Jimmy has come to warn his younger self against inventing time travel and encourages him to instead pursue a quiet, normal life with Courtney, something that he will always regret if he doesn’t do. But with Courtney being offered a job at CERN to work on the Large Hadron Collider, which would mean moving away to Switzerland, James has limited time to make his move.

Chernick does a good job of using his nebbishy persona to portray a brilliant but aloof character who is suggested to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. (“You dress like you’re higher on the spectrum than you actually are,” his sister deadpans to him when trying to help him choose a shirt for his date.) He is complimented nicely by Stern, who does fine work portraying the older and wiser version of Chernick’s character, who has spent the years of solitude afforded to him by jumping back through time working on himself and learning to not be so much of a workaholic, becoming enlightened about what’s really important in life.

Yes, Stern is taller and physically looks a bit different than Chernick, but this is explained away by the idea that travelling back in time changes you and stretches out your body, hence the slight differences in appearance between Jimmy and James. The supporting cast is rounded out by appealing work from Coleman; an amusing and sardonic turn by Pirie; and a wonderfully dry performance from Frances Conroy as James and Courtney’s elderly scientist boss, Dr. Rowley.

First and foremost, James vs. His Future Self is a very enjoyable film to watch. The film raises a few thoughtful ideas about the implications of time travel while also mainly keeping the focus on the relationships between its characters, (ideas about paradoxes and alternate realities are touched upon, but the film doesn’t get bogged down by going too deep into them), and the genre elements add a fun twist to the proceedings. The film was shot in Sudbury, Ontario, and includes a climax filmed in the distinctive interiors of Science North.

Mixing elements of both time travel fantasy and romantic comedy, the at times very funny screenplay, co-written by LaLonde and Chernick, uses its science fiction premise to offer a heartfelt message about letting go of the past and learning to live in the moment. The film is sweet, but has enough of an edge to keep it from becoming saccharine, delivering a genuine emotional payoff at the end with a wonderfully handled final scene that is quite nicely done.

James vs. His Future Self is forgoing its planned theatrical release due to the COVID-19 theatre shutdowns, and is being released across Canada today on a variety of VOD platforms, including iTunes, Bell and Shaw, with Rogers and Telus to follow later in the month.

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