Watch a tight drama about paranoid retiree “Ed” (John Lithgow) and lovable widower Ronnie (Blythe Danner) overcoming their own endearing personal quirks to find love in their golden years? You bet!
Except “The Tomorrow Man” ends up feeling longer than 94 minutes, Ed and Ronnie’s eccentricities turn out to be rather damaging, individual scenes don’t necessarily add up to a cohesive whole, and a great wind-up fails to deliver a solid punch.
But Lithgow and Danner are great together and apart, while the story itself paints a rather bleak picture of aging in America masquerading as some kind of personal acceptance. Ed’s loneliness and bitterness over a failed marriage turn him into a socially awkward conspiracy theorist, “prepping” for the impending End Of The World. Seeing Ronnie at his local store buying the same sorts of prep-goods he frequently purchases (in small quantities so as not to raise suspicion!), he senses a kindred spirit. His light stalking develops into a relationship of convenience with absent-minded Ronnie, who is always late to work and never has anyone over to her house because she can barely fit inside it; she’s a hoarder, endlessly buying and storing stuff she doesn’t really need.
Complicating matters is the absence of a supportive family. Ronnie lost her husband to cancer long ago, and her only onscreen friend is a well-meaning coworker a third her age. Ed meanwhile is estranged from his son and family, with themselves fighting amongst each other.
All of this might be worth subjecting yourself to if it went somewhere. But as the movie wears on, the storyline frays, which is a shame since the set up was solid. I’ve seen this happen with many a Sundance film (this year’s “The Sound of Silence” and “The Sunlit Night” among them), which leads me to wonder if Sundance filmmakers work on their projects sequentially, with The Ending suffering from an approaching submission deadline.
Or perhaps the filmmakers wanted the disjointed nature of the third act to reflect the aged and jumbled mindset of the lead characters? If so, it’s a brave creative choice; but I don’t know if it makes for a satisfying movie-going experience. Around the 90-minute mark, I found myself prepping for the inevitable and predictable end as well.
“The Tomorrow Man”
RUN TIME 94 min
Writer/Director: Noble Jones