The main conceit of the sci-fi-comedy hybrid James Vs. His Future Self is a universally alluring one: what if you could talk to your future self? And what if your future self could tell you exactly what you needed to do in order to be happy, what you could do better the second time around? This tension between the present and the future is what Jeremy Lalonde’s second directorial feature explores in a wittily chaotic manner.
Quantum physicist James (Jonas Chernick) is on the cusp of a breakthrough in his time travel research, but is negligent of his social environment; his sister functions as a glorified cook for him, whilst his best friend and long-term crush Courtney regularly goes unnoticed by him in favor of his work. One night, James gets attacked by a crazed man (Daniel Stern), who tells him an impossible thing; he’s James’ older self from the future, a future in which James has invented time travel, but is miserable and lonely. As older James is hell-bent on changing the past to ensure a better future for himself, younger James must face off against his own demons and decide what he values most in his life.
In James Vs. His Future Self, the science fiction elements often take a back burner to its more human drama and comedy, but this is a refreshing twist on the time traveller trope, and the film’s sleek use of neon lights and wide interior spaces nonetheless give it a futuristic edge. Whilst at times the film underlines its messages rather chunkily, with the occasional heavy-handed dialogue and a plot that unfolds too predictively, what drives James Vs. His Future Self through its time-bending story is its cast of charmingly eccentric characters. A highlight is Daniel Stern as future James, who plays the part right on the cusp between jaded loner and manic scientist, bringing a frenzied and darkly comical energy to the film. Jonas Chernick as James’ current self paints a believable portrait of a scientist who is well-intentioned and not completely socially inept, but frequently incapable of leaving his work behind to focus on the things going on around him.
Time travel films often get too caught up in their own machinations and logic, but the core message of James Vs. His Future Self is a very grounded and humane one: we are always so busy looking towards what the future may bring that we forget to live in the present moment. Whilst the ending that the film comes to may be a little bit too easy, its clever comedy and dynamic characters make for a very fun and oddly touching reinvention of the time travel genre.
[Amelie Voges – she/her – @amelieleav]