James and his sister Meredith each have their domains; she lives in the house they share and the present, while he spends most of his free time in the garage, the walls covered with notations of equations, diagrams of generators, spacetime matrices and family photographs, his mind either in the future where he will have completed his work, or fifteen years ago, before their parents died in an aeroplane crash.
Consumed with his work and a quiet grief he has never managed to overcome, James is oblivious to the other needs of his life, the unstinting support of both Meredith and Courtney, his co-worker at the Rowley Institute who shows up with Cantonese chow mien which he devours gracelessly, convinced he can solve the riddle of time travel, but time is running out with their patience and with Courtney who has been accepted for a post at CERN in Switzerland.
But fate has another plan for James, an Uber ride home with an overly chatty driver who knows too much about him and who restrains him in his own workspace, giving him an ultimatum to change his life and do better or end up lonely and out of chances. How does the man know this? Because, he says, he is James, from the future.
Introduced at the Glasgow Film Festival by director Jeremy LaLonde and star Jonas Chernick, friends and frequent collaborators who together developed the script, they freely admit the influence of Back to the Future on James vs His Future Self, but it is a smaller proposition, more personal and intimate, a science fiction time travel romantic comedy of missed opportunity, redeemed possibility and experimental particle accelerators.
The elder James who masquerades as “Uncle Jimmy” played by Home Alone‘s ruthless but purposeful Daniel Stern, he and Chernick are a fantastic double act, a mirror looking both ways and seeing disappointment and frustration, while In the Shadow of the Moon‘s Cleopatra Coleman is radiant as Courtney, patient and giving but unwilling to postpone her own career indefinitely for a man who lives in a garage, and although she is only a supporting character every line from Six Feet Under‘s Frances Conroy as the formidable Doctor Edna Rowley is gold.
Charming and intelligent, the message is writ large, that tiny changes today can bring a dramatically different tomorrow and that it is never too late to make the world a better place. More satisfying than the superficially similar Safety Not Guaranteedand continuing the Glasgow Film Festival’s strand of socially aware science fiction which brought Robot and Frank, James vs His Future Self is another low-key gem waiting to be unearthed.
James vs His Future Self will be on Sky TV in the UK and in Canadian cinemas in April and in US cinemas in May