When it comes to the Sci-Fi genre, time travel stories have been regular fodder. Man’s fascination with changing the past has been a constant in various media, including film. It’s very rare to see a film take the concept and do something different with it. James vs. His Future Self, playing Friday, October 18th at 9:30PM at the Toronto After Dark Film Fest, is one of those rare movies that takes time travel down a divergent path into a much more personal story.

The title of this film is very precise as that is exactly what it’s about. James (played by Jonas Chernick) is an uptight, workaholic scientist obsessed with traveling through time. He spends almost every waking hour working on theories and ignoring the people that care about him, including his sister Meredith (Tommie-Amber Pirie) and his best friend Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman). Life outside of his work is nearly non-existent. That all changes when he is visited by his future self (Daniel Stern) who tells him he must give up his dream of becoming the first time traveler, or else. When James won’t go along with the plan, it kicks off a war of man vs. himself, literally!

Director Jeremy Lalonde is no stranger to bringing a new spin on a tried and true concept. Here, he takes time travel and uses it as a backdrop to tell a very real story about properly dealing with grief and living in the moment. The film has minimal special-effects. There is no moment where we see someone travel through time. That is all implied and used to back up some amazing performances that are very easy to invest in.

Jonas Chernick (who co-wrote the film with Lalonde) has a very difficult job in this film. He plays the main character but by virtue of the story, is the antagonist of the piece. Everyone around James wants him to embrace life. The only thing in James’ way is his present self. Jonas has to do some not nice things throughout the story but not alienate the audience at the same time. Thankfully, he walks the fine tightrope between likeable and unlikeable so that the viewer does not give up on him. Daniel Stern brings an equally enjoyable performance as the future James. His erratic mood swings are always right on point.

The supporting cast also shine in James vs. His Future Self. Cleopatra Coleman gives us a very earnest and likeable Courtney. Without giving too much away, it’s not hard to see why anyone would fall for this intelligent, independent woman who’s not willing to wait around for someone to realize her true potential. Tommie-Amber Pirie brings us an underestimated performance that is truly integral to the piece. Meredith is a woman who is put upon, having to take care of her emotionally inept brother. She’s shows nothing but love and support for James throughout the film and asks very little in return. She also has a couple of the best comedic moments of the film during the drinking scene. Much like the rest of this film, Pirie’s performance does a great job of dancing between comedy and tragedy, never stepping too far onto either side.

Like all quality films working on micro-budgets, James vs. His Future Self focuses on strong performances and story. Unlike other time travel movies, this one does not bog the viewer down with complex theories or paradoxes. It presents a simple narrative and lets the characters take centre stage. If you’re looking for a performance driven sci-fi with heart, this is the film you want to see. James vs. His Future Self plays on Friday, October 18th, at 9:30PM at the Scotiabank Theatre as part of Toronto After Dark 2019. The film screens with the short Make Me a Sandwich by Denman Hatch. Get your tickets HERE.

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Check out James vs. His Future Self at Toronto After Dark 2019 on Friday, October 18th at the Scotiabank Theatre.