‘Tomorrow Ever After’: Film Review

Courtesy of Thier Productions Inc.
A clever lo-fi take on sci-fi.
5/5/2017

A time-travel accident strands a historian from the future in 2015 New York.

Upending the science fiction convention of a sterile, dystopian future, writer-director-editor Ela Thier instead offers a vision of a world where people live in communal peace. That vision is suggested rather than depicted in Tomorrow Ever After, a gently comic, conversation-starting charmer that wears its low-budget heart on its sleeve.

The humanitarian advances of a healed and loving planet — who'da thunk it? — are embodied in the form of an accidental time traveler, played by the filmmaker, who finds herself in the midst of the Great Despair — i.e., the early 21st century — and greets it with openhearted wonder and dismay. Through some sort of future-tech malfunction, historian Shaina is whisked out of the year 2592 and plopped into 2015 Manhattan, where she approaches every stranger with a hug and an earnest entreaty for help. Not necessarily the best way to get a New Yorker to talk to you.

The only person who engages with Shaina is a mugger, Milton (Nabil Viñas), and she’s more than happy to assist him with his need for cash, money being obsolete where she comes from. Like the personal computer, it's a quaint object of fascination, seen only in museum exhibits. Now she gets the anthropological thrill of seeing these antiquities in action, and Milton gets the financial thrill of seeing her “implement,” a shape-shifting, multifunctional device, extract money from an ATM.

In her quest to get back to the future, Shaina relies on the (reluctant) kindness of strangers, and is amazed and saddened to see how neighbors, co-workers and even lovers are strangers to one another. She doesn’t understand why people aren’t cuddling more and giving each other massages at every opportunity. Kicked out by Milton’s fed-up girlfriend (Ebbe Bassey), she finds a sympathetic listener in the agoraphobic Antonio (Memo) and a bit of help from his roommate, Rudy (Matthew Murumba).

Shaina’s touchy-feely way of life might not look like utopia for those of us who need our space, but there are rich tradeoffs in the world Thier has imagined six centuries hence: With no need for national borders, personal property or money, people take care of one another, enjoy health and well being and an average lifespan of 160 years.

Not all of Thier’s story threads, including one involving an ancestor of Shaina’s (Daphna Thier), have the snap of the central premise. The drama eventually gives way to a couple of message-y sequences, and Rob Schwimmer's music cues — beginning as lovely and spirited nods to the lullabies that 26th-century earthlings sing to one another — grow more heavy-handed. But even with these lapses, Thier’s Tomorrow is always deeply felt, and its clear-eyed observations about the Great Despair always ring true, whether or not a communal life filled with back rubs is your ideal.

Thier hopes to follow up her self-distributed feature with a series of films exploring its various characters and storylines; they might provide what feels missing from this foray into intriguing, provocative territory. Her writing and direction are resourceful and assured, and her performance is as delightful as it is imbued with political commentary. Playing Shaina as a humbly evolved yenta of sorts, she creates a character whose unflagging compassion makes her a comic anomaly in a world of anonymous, disconnected lives and free-market indifference. In its sweet but pointed way, saying a good deal with relatively little, and in unpredictable ways, the film is also a critique of art as corporate product, especially in the realm of sci-fi franchise extravaganzas.

Life is so richly satisfying in Shaina’s future world that no one needs or wants to get intoxicated — a development that might make some viewers wonder how much utopia they want. One can only hope that at least literature and movies in 2592 can still get down and dirty.

Production companies: Thier Productions, Studio B&H
Cast: Ela Thier, Nabil Viñas, Ebbe Bassey, Memo, Matthew Murumba, Daphna Thier
Director-screenwriter-editor: Ela Thier
Producers: Ela Thier, Inna Braude, Nikolai Metin
Executive producer: David Brommer
Director of photography: Milton Kam
Production designer: Virginia Hastings
Costume designer: Christine Ness
Composer: Rob Schwimmer

95 minutes

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