In James Vs. His Future Self, a sad and lonely old physicist, James (Daniel Stern), goes back in time to convince his younger self (Jonas Chernick) not to invent time travel. He’s about to partner with Dr. Rowley (Frances Conroy) to do it, which will cause him to become a self-absorbed jerk. The elder James also struggles to convince his younger him to be kinder to his sister Meredith (Tommie-Amber Pirie). Oh, and not to miss the opportunity to try to start a relationship with his constant companion Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman).
The film was directed by Jeremy LaLonde, who co-wrote it with the lead actor, Jonas Chernick. It is funny, surprising, even touching now and then, but what most excites me (as a professional physicist) is that it treats physicists with seriousness and respect, even while poking a little fun at the concept of time travel.
“…goes back in time to convince his younger self not to invent time travel.”
Just about every film handles time travel differently, which is to say according to the needs of the plot. In the James Vs. His Future Self version, when young James does something to change the timeline, his older self’s memory changes. This doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think it through, but it is a clever gimmick to keep young James from being able to bullshit older James and leads to some memorable exchanges between the two.
The kicker is that if young James indeed does agree not to invent time travel, old James will vanish. He presumably wouldn’t become so lonely and broken down in the future and would be unable to come back and kick his a*s. This is another interesting take, although it leads to some weird character motivations. Old James is basically begging for young James to destroy him. This could have led to some interesting complexities that weren’t explored. It was a missed opportunity, but there is something to be said about not overcomplicating a time travel movie.
Time travel stories always have gaping plot holes because of the paradoxes involved. I can get bent out of shape about that for movies where that matters, but James Vs. His Future Self is basically a lighthearted romantic comedy. So it gets the same kind of pass Back to the Future does.
"…it treats physicists with seriousness and respect, even while poking a little fun at the concept of time travel."