In Theaters

There’s nothing wrong with looking ahead – unless, of course, it becomes so compulsive that it keeps us from enjoying (or perhaps even recognizing) what’s going on around us – the present moment in which we dwell. It’s somewhat akin to being more worried about taking a smart phone photo of a significant event than the event itself. Yet, as comical as that may sound, all too often our focus is misplaced, myopically cast on the erroneous priority. We can miss a lot by doing that, something we could end up regretting if we do it for too long and let what truly matters go unrecognized as time evaporates away from us. Such is the potential pitfall faced by a worrisome, somewhat paranoid senior in the new romantic comedy-drama, “The Tomorrow Man” (web site, trailer).

Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow) worries incessantly about the future. The retired sixtysomething former systems analyst lives in a small town that could be virtually anywhere in the US, where everyday solid citizens dutifully go about their business believing that nothing will ever change as life goes on. But not Ed. He spends virtually all of his time – and money – prepping for some kind of looming but undefined disaster, be it war, economic collapse, martial law or Donald Trump’s re-election. He readies for this enigmatic indeterminate catastrophe by stockpiling everything from food to toilet paper to condoms in a secret storage room in his house, one whose existence he guards as if it’s Ft. Knox.

Ed’s preoccupation makes him something of a loner. The senior divorcee separated from his ex-wife years ago, and he has little (and mostly one-sided) contact with his son, Brian (Derek Cecil). Because of his relentless pontificating about the need to be prepared, as well as his incessant conspiracy theory rants, nobody really wants to talk to him except for a handful of kindred spirits on the internet. He doesn’t seem to mind too much, but he also does little to change his circumstances – that is, until he goes shopping at the local supermarket one day.

While picking up items for his everyday needs and supplementing his storage room’s supplies, Ed spies a spry but reserved fellow senior, Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner). He’s instantly smitten. Yet acting on an attraction to someone else is decidedly out of character for Ed, and his awkward initial attempts at getting to know her fall flat. Nevertheless he finds something special about Ronnie, and, in time, she discovers the same about him. And so, despite their cumbersome beginning, before long, the seemingly mismatched duo is an item.

Seniors Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow, background) and Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner, foreground) find love at an unexpected time in their lives in the delightfully quirky new romantic comedy, “The Tomorrow Man.” Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street.

As their relationship evolves, however, not everything proceeds smoothly. Despite his feelings for Ronnie, Ed never lets go of his survivalist prepping. At the same time, Ronnie struggles with baggage of her own, issues that conceal a dark secret that she’s reluctant to share with anyone, including Ed. Their respective concerns hang over each of them (and one another) like pesky little dark clouds that intrude on what should be a happy time in their lives. In essence, Ed frets about a future that hasn’t happened (and may never do so), while Ronnie struggles to let go of a painful past that obstinately persists despite any efforts to shed it.

One can’t help but hope that this otherwise-seemingly happy couple will figure out a way to make things work. But, no matter what they do, Ed and Ronnie don’t seem to be able to get out of their own way. Can they succeed in their efforts? And will they do so before it’s too late to do anything about their circumstances? With the clock ticking and uncertainty always lurking around the corner, there may be fewer and fewer opportunities to rectify their situation. Will they choose happiness or succumb to inevitable disappointment?

Senior Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner) dresses up for a date for the first time in years in director Noble Lincoln Jones’s debut feature, “The Tomorrow Man.” Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street.

The choice, of course, rests with Ed and Ronnie, and those choices are governed by their respective and joint beliefs (life is what you make of it, as they say). But what exactly are those beliefs?

Where the new lovebirds are concerned, their respective beliefs are governed by elements that make their alteration challenging. As noted previously, Ed is preoccupied with the future, while Ronnie is tied to her past. In each case, they’re invested in beliefs associated with time frames over which they have no control. Ed’s future has not arrived and, consequently, could end up taking myriad forms, none of which can be definitively predicted in advance. Meanwhile, Ronnie’s past is behind her, a done deal over which she has no say over how it unfolded, regardless of how unpalatable or unpleasant she may find it. So that leaves only one temporal window over which they (or any of us, for that matter) have any meaningful control – the present. The concept of “living in the moment” is thus a principle they’d be wise to adopt.

This casts a bright light on the need to get a firm handle on the precise nature of our beliefs. This involves looking inward and taking stock of who we are and what we really believe. Some of us may not succeed at this out of fright at what we might find, what we could stand to lose or the uncertainty of having to venture into uncharted territory. Nevertheless, if we want to realize what we desire, we must be courageous enough to tap into our authentic selves to determine exactly what’s driving our manifestations, how we might want to change them if needed and what it takes to allow our personal integrity to shine through into our materializations.

The sunset years can be so bright that they really do require shades as seniors Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner, foreground) and Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow, background) learn for themselves in “The Tomorrow Man.” Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street.

Where Ed and Ronnie are concerned, for example, they’re at the age where they’re each staring their own mortality squarely in the face. That’s a scary prospect for those who haven’t considered it, and denial is a coping mechanism commonly employed for evading it. But is this strategy helpful in the end? If Ed endlessly plans for the future, then maybe he’s lulled himself into believing that his life will also carry on in perpetuity, that his constant vigilance against potential calamities will somehow stave off the one that ultimately scares him most. Similarly, if Ronnie believes she can bury herself in the memories of her past – no matter how distressing some of them may have been – then perhaps that will obscure her appearance at the time when the Grim Reaper comes knocking at her door.

Realistically speaking, however, do these really sound like viable solutions? Wouldn’t it be preferable to pursue what gives us joy and allows us to relish whatever time we have left, to truly live in the moment? Such options are available, but it’s up to us to make them possible. Indeed, the choice is ours.

This delightfully quirky senior romance tale charms from beginning to end. Its deceptively subtle, surprisingly insightful narrative gives viewers much to think about, especially those of us who are a little further along our life paths. Its bittersweet story line presents a realistic view of romance later in life, particularly for partners who cling to eccentricities they cannot shed but who at least have one other to see their way through the tenuous and painful process. While not all elements of the film or the characters work, and even though some aspects are a little too formula for their own good, the picture nevertheless has more than its share of funny twists and turns, as well as superb performances by John Lithgow and Blythe Danner as the unlikely consorts. Director Noble Lincoln Jones’s beautifully shot debut feature serves up an excellent example of living in the moment, without worrying about a past that has come and gone and a future that has yet to arrive. Think of this as a geriatric version of “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012) but without the rampant silliness, and you’ve got an idea what this release is all about.

“The Tomorrow Man” is currently playing in limited release in theaters specializing in independent and arthouse cinema. Given the upcoming crush of summer blockbusters, this offering may quickly be overwhelmed by the competition and swept out of moviehouses, so act fast if you hope to catch this one on the big screen.

It would be foolhardy to say we should never consider the contingencies available to us. Indeed, Plan B has its place. But, when we engage in the kind of preparation that leads us to making so many plans that we run out of letters of the alphabet, maybe we need to step back and examine what we’re doing – and why. When planning our life becomes more important than living it, something is definitely amiss. The cautionary tale of “The Tomorrow Man” puts this on display for all of us to see, reminding us to look up once in a while and enjoy the view – while it lasts.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Tackling the Audacious

Mountaineer George Mallory became famous (although some would say infamous) for three little words he uttered to a New York Times reporter in 1923 when describing his multiple attempts to ascend Mt. Everest, the world’s highest peak – “Because it’s there.” It’s an expression that’s become virtually synonymous with embarking on a daunting endeavor simply for its own sake. Such undertakings are truly impressive, even if they’re not for everyone. Indeed, where would the spirit of human adventure be were it not for this kind of attitude? So it’s been for an intrepid urban hiker who undertook the challenge of walking all 8,000+ miles of roads, paths and bridges in New York’s five boroughs, a journey gorgeously chronicled in “The World Before Your Feet,” available on DVD and video on demand (web site, trailer).

When someone attempts the previously untried, especially when it’s of an awe-inspiring magnitude, onlookers may think the adventurer inspiring or crazy. Accomplishing such a never-before-achieved feat is extraordinary, no matter how one ultimately views it. But the lingering question associated with such a venture still remains, “Why?” That’s especially true when the endeavor requires a radical alteration of one’s lifestyle and priorities. However, for former civil engineer Matt Green, the effort has truly been a labor of love.

Former engineer Matt Green has made it his mission to walk all 8,000+ miles of New York’s streets, paths and bridges as chronicled in the new documentary “The World Before Your Feet,” available on DVD and video on demand. Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment.

Over the course of six years, filmmaker Jeremy Workman followed Green on his ambitious odyssey. Through it all, the director filmed many miles of his subject’s travels. Shot during all four seasons in all five boroughs, Workman captured beautiful images of one of the world’s greatest cities, including many that seemingly defy countless preconceptions held about New York. And, as Green’s journey was being documented, he further chronicled his effort by taking innumerable photos of his adventures, posting them along with his thoughts and impressions in an ongoing blog.

As enterprising as this project might seem, in some ways it was nothing new to the inner city wanderer. Prior to taking on this task, Green walked across the U.S. from Rockaway Beach, NY to Rockaway Beach, OR. In both of these ventures, he learned to live simply, retaining only the most basic of possessions and freely accepting help whenever it was offered. In his New York journey, for example, since he was not gainfully employed, he kept a roof over his head by looking after friends’ homes, cat sitting or sleeping on the couches of those who generously offered him accommodations.

Sanitation workers (center and right) are among the many diverse people urban hiker Matt Green (left) has encountered during his journey to walk all 8,000+ miles of New York’s streets, paths and bridges as seen in the documentary “The World Before Your Feet.” Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment.

As Green made his way throughout New York, he found his journey was not only one of touring the city, but also one of wondrous discovery. Having time to live without the burden of most of the everyday obligations we all feel we must address has given him an opportunity to notice the little things that make up the city he calls home. He has been able to gain an appreciation for the elements that constitute Gotham that many of us obliviously overlook. It’s also enabled him to focus on subjects that he’s found personally intriguing, from the quirky to the sublime. For example, he’s paid particularly close attention to things like New York’s surprisingly diverse plant life, from trees to flowers to fruits and vegetables growing wild in a diverse array of community and public gardens. He’s also documented considerable information and images about the five boroughs’ “churchagogues” (former synagogues that have now become churches or other houses of worship); New York’s many 9/11 memorials, some official, some makeshift, all stirring and heartfelt; and the city’s vast selection of hair and beauty salons, especially those that somehow manage to slip the letter “z” into their names.

More than that, though, the journey has helped Green discover much about himself, something that many of us seldom take the time to assess and that he didn’t do as often as he might have when he was living a typical professional middle class existence. However, having been seriously injured in a bicycle accident before he began his journeys and living through the ordeal of a brother who experienced a severe stroke at a young age, Green realized that tomorrow isn’t promised. And, from that, he concluded he didn’t want his life to pass him by without taking the time to get to know himself better, something that the time afforded by his cross-country and New York journeys enabled him to do.

It was a decision that required him to make major adjustments in his life, such as breaking off relationships that he couldn’t sustain and divesting himself of nearly all of his belongings. But, for him, it was worth it. He learned that he could live comfortably and contentedly without the shackles that previously bound him (and that, quite frankly, bind most of us). The liberating effects have been more than worth the trade-offs, a consideration that may deserve a look for those of us who are restless or discontented and believe that there might be other possibilities for the way we live our lives. The sheer joy that Green gets from doing what we wants, when he wants and on his terms would seem to bear that out.

Big city wanderer Matt Green (left) and director Jeremy Workman (right) have collaborated to produce a beautiful homage to the street life of New York’s five boroughs as seen in “The World Before Your Feet.” Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment.

This stunningly beautiful homage to an incredible city, an inspiring individual and the value of living life in the moment entertains while it enlightens, taking viewers on an odyssey of more than just the many striking attractions that Gotham has to offer. It also surveys the beauty within each of us, the parts of ourselves that we seldom see but that are just as magnificent as any surface trappings. For his part, Matt Green got a glimpse of that and liked what he saw. At first glance, one might be tempted to say that that’s a nice little gift to himself, a benefit of being fortunate enough to have the time to figure out how to lead a life unburdened by the hindrances of modern-day life. But he’s not the only one to benefit from this; by sharing his experience, he’s shown us how we can all do the same for ourselves if we have the will and character to choose to do so.

Some may say there’s no commercial value in taking on ventures like the one that Matt Green has tackled. But, as his experience has revealed, must that always be the case with anything that we undertake? Sometimes the sheer enjoyment value of pursuing such personally meaningful quests is far greater than anything that money can buy, and, thankfully, there are still those among us out there who haven’t lost sight of that.

A complete review will be available in the near future by clicking here.

Ranting About Responsibility

Are filmmakers responsible for the impact of what they produce? Or are they mere purveyors of entertainment with no obligation for the tenor or potential consequences of their work?

For those familiar with my writing and viewpoints, it’s probably not too difficult to figure out on which side of the issue I come down. And so, it’s with that in mind, that I offer my thoughts about the new action-adventure release, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” featured in my latest rant, “Wantonly Disgusting: A Film Commentary,” available by clicking here. This blog presents a perspective that I fully realize places me in a distinct moviegoing minority, but it’s something that I sincerely believe needed to be said. Readers may not agree with this idea at first glance, but please give my insights some thought. Maybe this will provide some valuable food for thought, both for us and the movie industry.

Copyright © 2019, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.