Issue-based films are part of our cinematic diet but, inevitably, they vary. Just because a movie advocates a laudable cause, it’s not automatically a good film – which means that when it’s transparently sincere to the point of wearing its heart on its sleeve, reviewing it can be tricky because there’s more than a twinge of guilt involved.
Martha Pinson’s well-intentioned Tomorrow falls into that category, compounded by some unexpected prestige. She may be a first time feature director, but Pinson has worked consistently with one of the biggest names in movies throughout her career – a certain Mr Scorsese, who’s also an executive producer on the film. A script supervisor on such titles as Shutter Island and The Departed, she’s also worked on big TV series like Law And Order and Monk. Not that she’s written the script this time round: instead that falls to the film’s two lead actors, Stuart Brennan and Sebastian Street, inspired by Street’s friendship with a war veteran suffering from PTSD.
The narrative and emotional potential are evident. Tesla (Street) uses a wheelchair following a tour of duty in Afghanistan and finds it hard to adjust to his new life. One night in the pub he meets Sky (Brennan), who doesn’t have a care in the world, and some of his friends, including Katie (Stephanie Leonidas). She and Tesla start dating and, as she’s aiming to open her own restaurant and he’s a talented cook, the two decide to go into business together. Sky helps them raise the money and things are definitely on the up – except that it takes longer than they expect for the funds to come through and something is clearly not right with Sky …..
When somebody says they don’t especially get on with time, it’s an ever so slightly cumbersome hint that the future isn’t looking great and the reason why will materialise sooner rather than later. Tomorrow doesn’t so much nudge you as jab you sharply in the ribs all the way through, telegraphing so obviously what’s going to happen that you always feel several steps ahead of the characters on the screen. And you’re invariably right. It undermines your sympathy for Tesla, despite Street’s sympathetic performance, portraying the frustrations of his physical limitations and the pain of flashbacks from his trauma. The film’s lack of sentiment about his disability is to its credit, but there’s always the sense – nay conviction – that we’re only seeing half of the picture. Cabs equipped for disabled passengers are easy to come by and at no point does he ever appear to have a problem accessing a building. Everybody seems to be brilliantly complaint with the DDA. It ain’t so.
His physical and emotional issues are just one of the issues addressed by the film. Once again, this is down to the script, which takes a tick box approach. Father/son relationships? Tick. PTSD? Tick. HIV – advancements in medication and attitudes to the virus? Tick. There are others, but those are the major ones. Not that they don’t need to be examined or don’t fit with the story, but their introduction and treatment is, like the rest of the film, over-simplistic. For all the experience behind it, and the good intentions, Tomorrow gets by on its emotional appeal. You’d have to be very hard hearted to be unaffected by it, but you equally can’t ignore that it’s awkward to the point of clumsy and something of a disappointment.
Freda Cooper | [rating=2]
Drama | UK, 2019 | 15 | 27 September (2019) | Stronghold | Dir. Martha Pinson | Sebastian Street, Stuart Brennan, Stephanie Leonidas, Sophie Kennedy Clark, James Cosmo