‘The Tomorrow Man’ zeroes in the unpredictability of the future

As we age, we may worry about the future.

Perhaps we read posts that create concern, or hear rumors that confuse, or see reports that frighten. And, as we age, our capability to look beyond what may cause fear can weaken. Time does take its toll.

Noble Jones’ independent film, “The Tomorrow Man,” focuses on how one senior citizen copes with his concerns about what could happen to his world, family, routine and security. Rather than rationally consider his worries, or address his concerns, this man spends his limited income on items that won’t perish in case he can’t get what he needs from stores he visits today. Only when he meets a woman who may be more extreme in her own spending and collecting does this man take a second look at the habits that became comfortable. And the fear that may define his life.

Any film that walks such a sensitive line between reality and absurdity requires a clear script, delicate direction and a sterling cast. For most of its 94-minutes, “The Tomorrow Man” delivers what it promises. Jones carefully explains what prompts Ed to collect all those items he insists he will need to survive. The moviemaker creatively stages the situations where Ed and the lady named Ronnie first interact and naturally evolves their relationship without resorting to standby film clichés. Through the film’s halfway point, the plot naturally observes how these characters connect.

But Jones then takes an unnecessary detour when he lets the film celebrate Thanksgiving to give Ed an occasion to reconnect with his distant son. All of a sudden that delicate touch he has established becomes heavy-handed as Jones slips into movie-of-the-week mode by letting the son’s bitterness and the daughter-in-law’s wine take the story on an unnecessary detour. Without letting us know why these characters matter, Jones uses precious screen time to justify their presence.

Little of this distraction matters, however, when Jones lets his camera follow stars John Lithgow (as Ed) and Blythe Danner (as Ronnie). These two acting legends, working together on screen for the first time, reach beyond the words on the page to create compelling people who learn how needing each other can enhance daily living. While Lithgow’s approach to the role may fit what we expect from this actor, Danner’s interpretation surprises, at every moment, as she reaches through the screen to touch us with her authentic portrayal of the fear we may experience when we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to understand. Along her performance in “I’ll See You in My Dreams” in 2015, Danner’s later career work simply glows.

Film Nutritional Value: The Tomorrow Man

Content: Medium. This narrative of a man and woman who accidentally meet - when each faces challenges with their fears - has a lot to say about how people age.

Entertainment: High. Because John Lithgow and Blythe Danner make us believe what we see on screen, we cling to this story about people who resist feeling comfortable.

Message: Medium. While the film takes an unnecessary detour to a family visits, its primary focus on what people may fear as we age is moving and thoughtful.

Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to consider how to make major life decisions - even as we age - can be meaningful.

Opportunity for Dialogue: High. While the film makes us think, it gives us a welcome opportunity to watch Lithgow and Danner shine on screen.

In a crowded movie marketplace, such a quiet film can easily get lost. Fortunately, “The Tomorrow Man” made its way to some theaters before finding a home online for streaming. As much as we may love going to the movies, a film this interesting can make staying home just as entertaining, especially when such acting luminaries as Lithgow and Danner tell the story.

“The Tomorrow Man” is rated PG-13 for “brief strong language and some suggestive material and language.” The film runs 1 hour, 34 minutes. After showing at area theaters it is available for online streaming.