Title: Tomorrow You’re Gone
Director: David Jacobson (‘Down in the Valley’)
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Michelle Monaghan and Willem Dafoe
People often strive to better their lives and do whatever it takes to make better decisions after they realize they made a mistake, and have been ostracized by society. But in their struggle to overcome their transgressions, their guilt often hinders their attempt to better their lives, and ultimately leads them down the same path that caused them trouble in the first place. This is certainly the case with former convict Charlie Rankin in the new thriller ‘Tomorrow You’re Gone.’ With the aid of creative locations that reflect his attitude and motivations, Charlie explores the reasoning behind his actions, and ponders how to correct his life.
‘Tomorrow You’re Gone’ follows Charlie (Stephen Dorff) as he’s released from prison, following a four-year sentence. However, he can’t seem to stay out of trouble, as he’s in debt to the man who saved his life while he was in jail, who goes by the nickname The Buddha (Willem Dafoe). To settle the score, Charlie must commit a murder on The Buddha’s behalf. However, the recently paroled prisoner begins to have doubts about his duty to his savior on the planned night of the slaying when he coincidentally meets a mysterious woman on a bus, Florence (Michelle Monaghan). A lost soul, Florence sees the good hidden beneath Charlie’s tough exterior, despite his insistence that she shouldn’t become involved with him. When the hit doesn’t go according to plan, Charlie’s life is put on the line. He’s forced to not only find a way to settle his debts, but also keep Florence out of danger, before his past catches up to him.
Even though the majority of the conflict in the film is based on Charlie’s plight over repaying his debt after he was released from prison, the most intriguing, versatile performance in ‘Tomorrow You’re Gone’ is undoubtedly given by Monaghan. While the actress has previous experience in performing stunts in the action thriller genre, and has played strong-willed and determined women in such films as ‘Mission: Impossible III’ and ‘Source Code,’ she truly pushes her emotional range and boundaries with Florence’s striking and seemingly fearless initiative.
While the character took the bold and forward step of approaching Charlie and starting a conversation with him on a bus, Florence showed her vulnerability and need for love as she continuously vies for his attention. Despite his persistent objections to her forward and transparent advances, she continues pushing for a more intimate relationship, as she doesn’t believe his insistence that he’s not a good man for her. Monaghan quickly and believably developed Florence throughout the film, particularly after she learns of Charlie’s criminal past and debt he owes to The Buddha; she learns to defend and pursue the things she wants, particularly a relationship with Charlie, despite the obstacles they quickly began facing together, particularly his obligatory murder.
While Monaghan provided a tense and vulnerable performance of an emotionally damaged woman who’s trying to find her place in the world and form a meaningful bond with someone, the story unfortunately at times failed to provide clarity. Matthew F. Jones, who made his feature film writing debut with ‘Tomorrow You’re Gone,’ failed to create any true explanations for the story’s conflicts and motivations, including the reasoning why Charlie was sent to jail, why he became in debt to The Buddha and his fear that he would never be good enough to please anyone else.
The film also offered hints of Charlie’s ever escalating sense of rage towards those around him, such as the family making noise in the room next to him when he’s first released and a man who attempted to steal the bag the Buddha left for him to help him survive. It’s commendable that he vowed to become a better person after being released from jail, and attempt to curtail his wrath towards other people who seemed to be putting him in harm’s way. But while Jones created several situations that had the potential to showcase the character’s true dark nature, the writer ultimately failed to offer clear explanations or resolutions on Charlie’s wavering inner conflicts. Without any clear reasoning for his clearly evident unease of fulfilling his obligation to The Buddha, Charlie appears to be questionably apprehensive of the path his life is taking.
Despite the unclear motivations of Charlie throughout the film, the thriller’s production designer, Jennifer Klide, created unique sets that reflected the situations he unexpectedly found himself in throughout the story, which ultimately changed his life course. When he was first released from prison, Charlie found himself staying in a decrepit, simplistic room with minimal furniture, which the Buddha rented for him. The room minimalized the opportunities he had to build a better life for himself through its gloomy lighting and decrepit walls.
After he meets Florence on the bus, the two go back to her apartment, which was full of glitzy clothing and audacious furniture, which highlights her vulnerability and deep desire to find someone who will appreciate her. The impressive mansion of the man Charlie is supposed to kill, and ultimately breaks into in order to fulfill his obligation, features ornate, expensive furniture, colorful family portraits and paintings and numerous rooms he can hide in as he searches for his target. The separation between Charlie and his target in the numerous rooms throughout the large house clearly represent his division from the upper class and any change of redemption for his continued crimes.
‘Tomorrow You’re Gone’ offers some creditable attributes in the exploration of people’s need and desire to be appreciated and recognized by others, and their continued attempts to better their lives, even if there are unwavering obstacles that stand in their way. Monaghan gave an tense and vulnerable performance of the emotionally damaged Florence, whose desire to be loved by someone else is so intense she continually overlooked the problems Charlie continuously points out about himself. Klide also created diverse, intriguing sets that emotionally represent different elements in Charlie and Florence’s lives. However, despite the actress’ enthralling performance and the reflective locations, the thriller unfortunately didn’t live up to its full potential by introducing plot points and conflicts that Charlie regularly faced, but failed to clearly explore their origins and how they truly affected his life.
Written by: Karen Benardello