Canadian science-fiction comedy James vs. His Future Self (2019) sees older James (genre-film stalwart Daniel Stern in a thoroughly engaging performance) travel back in time to save his younger self (Jonas Chernick) not from a dastardly or deadly act, but from blowing a shot at love with fellow science student Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman). The trouble with hard-headed younger James is that he is so single-minded in his pursuit of time travel — with which his older version has made it clear that he can eventually find success — that it rules practically every waking moment for him, to the point that an initial romantic interlude with Courtney is interrupted when part of a formula comes to him. The cast — which also includes Frances Conroy as James’ professor and partner in a working time travel device and Tommie-Amber Pirie as James’ sister Meredith — is great, and the screenplay by director Jermy LaLonde and Chernick boasts believable dialogue, appealing characters, and some surprising dark turns. Stern gets the most opportunities to stretch here, and he does a fine job with both comic set pieces and tender moments of drama. Viewers looking for hard science or big-budget special effects might wish to look elsewhere, but those in the mood for a story-driven science fiction comedy with a fair share of bittersweet and offbeat moments should find James vs. His Future Self to be quite a delight.

James (Daniel Stern) and James (Jonas Chernick) have a talk in James vs His Future Self.

Minos Nikolakakis’ stunning feature directorial debut Entwined (Greece/U.K., 2019) masterfully blends Greek mythology, dark fairy tale, gothic, and folk horror elements in its tale of a doctor named Panos (Prometheus Aleiferopoulos) who moves from his city to a tiny village. He learns that the village is populated by older citizens who are quite superstitious, and that he is the first physician to ever live there. While leisurely walking through the nearby forest, he happens upon a tiny cottage inhabited by a young woman named Danae (Anastasia-Rafaela Konidi), whom Panos had accidentally hit with his car earlier, after which she ran away from him. The villagers are wary of Danae, to say the least, and when Panos discovers the elderly man she said is her father having sex with her, Panos intervenes. After coming to her aid and discovering that she has an affliction that causes some of her skin to appear like tree bark, he becomes enchanted with this woman who speaks as though she is from another time, falling hopelessly but painfully in love with her. The forest plays an important role in Entwined, appearing beautiful and wondrous at times, and eerie and foreboding at others, with Thodoros Mihopoulos’ cinematography capturing the lush settings splendidly. Nikolakakis, working from a screenplay by John De Holland, has crafted a haunting slice of cinema. The performances by Konidi and Aleiferopoulos are hypnotic. Entwined is the rare film in which viewers can get lost.

You need not be familiar with Canadian political history to be absorbed in the trippy The Twentieth Century (Canada, 2019) because this 16mm surreal comic take on the life of William Lyon McKenzie King as he strives to become Prime Minister takes all sorts of liberties, from puppet birds to shoe fetishes to candidates vying against each other in seal-clubbing and wood-sniffing contests. Filled with Art Deco scenery, Dadaist leanings, and filmmaking techniques with nods to the early days of cinema, director Matthew Rankin has obviously watched his share of Guy Maddin films (both directors hail from Winnipeg), but Rankin has plenty of original ideas on display in his debut feature. Dan Beirne plays young McKenzie King as an arrogant mama’s boy hampered by a milquetoast side. His mother (Maddin regular Louis Negin in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?-style drag) has dreams that she insists prophesy his becoming Prime Minister, despite opposition from the more masculine and socially adept Bert Harper (Mikhaïl Ahooja) and others. McKenzie King must deal with love interests both unrequited and uninvited, political rivals that seem to outclass him, and political intrigue that forces him to make life-altering choices. Rankin serves up a visually intoxicating, constantly amusing satire with Beirne splendidly leading a terrific, sizeable cast.

James vs. His Future Self, Entwined, and The Twentieth Century screened at Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival which ran in Bucheon, South Korea, from July 9-16, 2020.