James Vs. His Future Self [TADFF Review]

Movies that deal with the notion of time travel are either a success or a complete miss. Too often the story gets lost in the explanation of how it is possible. Luckily, James vs His Future Self is able to avoid this by playing smart and actually taking the time of making the time travel a device that drives not only the story forward but also the characters that the world is filled with. By mixing different genres, the film becomes more than just a time-travel film, it is able to create a story that might not be new but it has so much heart that it brings something fresh to the table.

Directed by Jeremy LaLonde, James vs His Future Self stars Jonas Chernick, who also co-wrote the script with LaLonde, Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Cleopatra Coleman (The Last Man on Earth). Telling the story of James (Chernick) an uptight time-travelling obsessed young scientist who is surprised one day when his nihilistic future self (Stern) shows up and tells him that he needs to give up on becoming the first time traveller. Expect, when James refuses to listen to his future self, his world is turned upside down and all of a sudden he finds himself confronted with his own self… Literally.

What creates such a wonderful film is the fact that the film wears its heart on its sleeve. Even when the script becomes too long or the pace becomes wonky, the film is so earnest and so truthful that you can’t fault it. The story might not always feel cohesive and at times Daniel Stern feels like he is in another type of film completely but it doesn’t matter because he is so delightful in the role. The film knows Stern’s strength and uses it so well. His comedic timing is perfect, he plays really well off Jonas Chernick. While the film is clearly his, it gets stolen away from him by one incredible performance from Frances Conroy who uses her minimal screentime to steal the film from everyone else.

What makes James Vs His Future Self so interesting is that it doesn’t feel like other time-travelling films. While using most of the tropes that we know, it also changes things up by making both characters the villains of their own stories. They both think they are right but in the end, are hurting each other more than anything else. Chernick does a fantastic job of creating a character that would have been very unlikable if it wasn’t for his charm. James could have been a character that one would have hated and yes at time you do, but his charm is undeniable and saves the film from having a lead that is impossible to root for.

What appreciates is that James could have been the centre of the film and he is but every other character feels complete. Cleopatra Coleman’s Courtney doesn’t feel like just a love interest, she is fully formed, with her own goals and idea. The same goes for every other character you meet. The film could have easily fallen into the trap of simply having characters to advance James’ narrative, and they kind of do, but they also feel so full that it’s something that you can overlook.

James Vs His Future Self doesn’t change the game, while it does lean heavily on its love story, it also creates a compelling film that truly feels like a breath of fresh air in this genre. With its humour and great performances, the film is entertaining and so heartfelt that you can’t help but fall in love with it.