When Is Tomorrow

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 04/02/07 18:21:28

"This is what the indies are good at."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2007 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: This movie is about as indie as you get. Shot on digital video in Austin, Texas with a small crew (several doing double duty as members of the cast), it maintains a tight focus on its central characters and relationship at all times. It's the kind of story that independent films have no real disadvantage compared to studio projects, and may have an advantage, since dozens of people trying to contribute will probably only hurt it.

When Is Tomorrow has a starting point particularly popular in indie film and theater - two people who haven't seen each other in a while meeting for the first time in years, initially being glad to see each other, but soon being reminded why they parted ways. In this case, Ron (Eddie Steeples) has flown into Austin from New York for his old roommate Jake's wedding. In the five years since they saw each other last, Ron has become a successful poet while Jake (Kevin Ford) is mostly breaking even as a window washer. As bachelor parties go, Jake's desires are modest - hang out with Ron and smoke one of the great joints he used to roll, despite Ron's protests that he doesn't do that any more. But Jake is insistent, and has a way of wearing Ron down.

Many of us either have or have had someone like Jake in our lives. Jake is selfish, irresponsible, and inconsiderate; the likes of Ron put up with it because they don't detect any malice in it and because some small part of them envies the ability to live like that. Ford plays Jake as a guy who has never fully grown up, and there's more than a bit of monster in his man-child. He pushes Ron in ways that initially just seem to come from awkwardness, but eventually seem more calculated. Jake just doesn't get that he causes trouble and breeds resentment, even when he's doing it on purpose.

Ron's more sympathetic, although he makes the audience work a little to find him that way. He comes off as sort of pompous at first, grumbling when Jake won't call him by the name he's known by in the art world, "Duke Eloquent", and whining about all the insects. Ron is initially able to say he listens to country music and make it sound like hipper-than-thou posturing. Steeples breaks that shell fairly quickly, and gives a performance that is in turn funny and grim. There are moments when we like that Jake loosens Ron up - Steeples does a great job of stripping Ron's pomousity away when he's high - but even more moments when we're nearly as frustrated as him at how Jake can so easily push his buttons, getting him to do things he has said he doesn't want to do..

There are a handful of other characters - most notably C. Robert Cargill as another one of their former roommates and co-producer Angela Bettis as a girl Ron meets at a party - but for the most part, this is a two-person show. It's a deftly handled one, see-sawing between Jake's point of view and Ron's, even though every scene reinforces the film's basic point: Some friendships just may not be worth the cost. For every moment of Ron benefiting from knowing Jake, there's a couple more of Jake being an ass. Even if the result is constantly in question - Jake could get back under Ron's skin; Ron could say enough is enough once and for all; or the pair could go their separate ways, ready to re-enact it all again at some future date - we always feel like we're heading there, rather than just watching a pair of friends improvise a movie out of nothing.

Though they are friends and improvising; it's why Eddie Steeples wound up with a writing credit. During the Q&A, Ford mentioned that someone else was originally going to play Jake, but he had to step in. So, Ford added co-star to his list of jobs, along with directing, co-writing, co-producing and editing. Bettis and Steeples also co-produced. The group has the comfort level expected of long-time collaborators, and working with such a small group keeps them from trying to do too much.

"When Is Tomorrow" is a good little movie, not overly ambitious but not exceptionally lightweight, either. It's a fine example of what independent films do well.

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