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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 04.03.13] thriller

It's rather surprising that writer/director David Jacobson didn't set pen to paper for Tomorrow You're Gone. His new film feels very much a partner of Down in the Valley and though the two don't share much in the way of themes, they both focus on troubled men. Tomorrow You're Gone is Matthew F. Jones' work, a novelist whose work always features damaged men; in this case, it happens that Jones' work has met a director with a similar sensibility yielding mixed results.

Stephen Dorff stars as Charlie, a man recently released from prison but rather than leaving with a clean slate, he leaves with a debt to pay. He owes his friend and jailhouse mentor "The Buddha" a debt and the Buddha's price is high: murder. Charlie's given a gun, some money and along with the letter he received before his release, clear instructions on what's expected. But Charlie's not a murderer. At least he doesn't come across as one, and from the beginning there's a sense that he's tormented by demons of his own making that are going to make this job complicated.

Unsurprisingly, the hit goes south and Charlie's given a short period of time to fix things but it's here that Tomorrow You're Gone really veers off the trail of what's expected from the "criminal on one last job that goes wrong" trope. The story follows Charlie as he deals with the fallout of the botched murder but the fallout is largely internalized. It's suggested that he's not a man used to inflicting violence and his turmoil over the hit along with the ghosts of his past that continue to plague him are too much to bear.

He's not alone in his struggle. Florence (Michelle Monaghan), an open hearted soul, seems to appear out of no where to provide Charlie with companionship and some semblance of love in his short time out of prison. She's sweet and wants nothing more from him than sex but Charlie latches on almost immediately and the two spend most of the movie's running time driving around town not having sex but just talking. She helps him work out some of his troubles but he's too far gone for rescue.

Florence's appearance is far too convenient which leads me to believe that perhaps she was never really there but simply a figment of Charlie's troubled mind, a manifestation of his conscience urging him to do the right thing. In fact, it seems none of the people Charlie encounters, with the exception of the man and woman on the other end of his gun, are real which poses some interesting questions that make Tomorrow You're Gone an interesting watch. It may begin in familiar territory but it quickly veers into the very intimate struggle of a man who doesn't know how to live with his troubles.

Dorff has always shown potential but outside his great performance in Somewhere, he's largely been relegated to the doldrums of direct to DVD releases peppered with the occasional supporting role in larger fare but he's very good here, capturing a quiet chaos that is largely conveyed through his eyes. It's a quietly moving performance and one that will, hopefully, yield some better work for the talented actor.

Tomorrow You're Gone isn't without faults, most notably Jones' script which is sometimes dense with cryptic dialogue, but Jacobson's direction and Dorff's performance manage to overcome it to deliver a touching exploration of personal struggle.

Tomorrow You're Gone opens April 5th.

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