John Lithgow and Blythe Danner are a pleasure to watch in Noble Jones’ charming film about two seniors who find love as Lithgow’s character would say, “on the wrong side of 60.” At a time when monsters, maniacs and Marvel rule the box office, “The Tomorrow Man” is a refreshing film that moves along at a casual pace.
Lithgow as a divorced doomsday prepper and Danner as a widowed hoarder resemble The Odd Couple as they go through the courtship process. These characters come with a lot of quirks and that’s part of the film’s charm.
Lithgow plays Ed Hemsler, a 70-year-old retired factory worker who made a living working with ball bearings. The fastidious divorcee thrives on order as he spends every day preparing for the end of the world. When he’s not on the phone arguing with his grown son, Brian (Derek Cecil), or corresponding with preppers on message boards using the alias Captain Reality, he’s usually at the grocery store picking up items for the hidden bunker located in his home.
One day while at the grocery store, Ed notices Ronnie Meisner (Danner), an attractive woman around his age who is paying with cash. Doomsday preppers know that credit and debit cards will be obsolete when the fateful day comes as the world goes off the grid and cash is king. He begins stalking her trips to the supermarket waiting for the opportune time to introduce himself.
Ronnie is no prepper; in fact, she’s living in the present. Her daily routine involves working at a small gift shop with vicenarian Tina (a very good Eve Harlow) who is always ready to dispense advice. Ronnie listens intently to her younger colleague’s guidance especially when she begins dating Ed.
Jones takes his time with the courtship as Lithgow and Danner proceed with caution, both being sensitive to the other’s disposition. We learn that Ronnie lost her daughter and husband, and now, the widower lives like a hoarder with piles and piles of stuff filling every space in her home. The film never explains why Ronnie became obsessed with shopping and collecting useless items but after losing the ones you love it’s understandable that she probably tried to fill that void by staying busy and this is the result. Danner delivers an endearing performance reminiscent of her role in 2015’s “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
Jones provides more insight into Ed’s character in a revealing scene that takes place on Thanksgiving as he and Ronnie join Brian’s family for dinner. The wine flows, the two men begin to argue, while the women try and stay out of their way. Brian doesn’t agree with his dad’s doomsday outlook and Ed is upset that his son is not preparing his family should the apocalypse arrive. More wine, please.
“The Tomorrow Man” provides a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced films. Lithgow and Danner are a pleasure to watch in the sensitive film from Jones, a former music video director who’s worked with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. This may mark his feature debut, but the writer-director has years of experience working with acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher. Give yourself a break and check out this wonderful film.