There’s no mistaking “Tom of Your Life” for anything other than an indie comedy of singular vision.
A daft, sometimes dizzy and occasionally sentimental dash through relationships, parenting, morality, and life experiences packed into a story of a boy born and magically aging “four years, every hour on the hour” through his life over one long day, it is one filmmaker’s One Big Idea for a movie.
Jeremy Sklar goes by “Jer,” here, and for his debut feature film, he wrote, directed and did the music for a picture he also co-stars in, at least for the third act. That’s when he takes over the role of “Tom,” a child kidnapped from the hospital by a manic, unstable and abrasively funny nurse named Jess (Baize Buzan).
The best thing Nurse Jess ever did in her drug-abusing/restraining-ordered life was grabbing this potential science experiment and taking him out into the world for one eventful and often funny day. She stuffed tiny Tom (Levi Emerson Paul) into a garbage can, calmed him as she wheeled him to the parking lot, lying to anybody she met, and lit out.
She feeds him, takes him horseback riding and watches him age through two other actors (Judah Abner Paul and Joshua Paul) at the end of his first and only bicycle lesson.
Next thing you know, Tom (Dominic Rescigno) is in a track suit bugging her about sailboats (he saw a picture) and “maybe trying driving?”
“You’re not old enough…or maybe you ARE!”
He promptly ditches her and races to a strip club — because PUBERTY!
And so it goes through this long day, Tom aging (Sklar takes over at a going-to-seed 30), taking his first ever boat ride, a Chicago river tour, “a floating sidewalk of elderly people,” gulping his “first alcoholic beverage,” first sex, first hit of cocaine, first-ever poker game…
His first ride on the El is his first-ever encounter with a person-of-color. Fiftyish and tactlessly fascinated with “Your skin, what happened?”
All along this fast-moving day of stumbling from one adventure to another via extreme close-ups, we’re given insights into Jess’s fury. She has a purse full of pills and a pipe and has an unhealthy thing for older men — one of whom was her hospital boss (Paul Tigue), the other who pulled the trigger on a restraining order. She’s…unbalanced.
“Need a lift?“
“Not in your purple piece-of-s— RAPE van, I don’t!”
“That was HURTful!”
Buzan gets across the “not really a parent” thing of the early scenes well. But as she indulges little Tom, and then bigger and older Tom, her frazzled turn becomes sympathetic, as if she took Tom at four because she was good at math, and has a heart.
Sklar, as the eldest Tom, looks more and more like Tom Sizemore the older and paunchier and greyer he gets. It’s a fun performance with a hint of mortality to it.
There are more random funny encounters than just the guy trying to give Jess a lift, the foul-mouthed farmer who gives horseback rides and the hooker Tom finds on the Internet.
It doesn’t all work, and “Tom of Your Life” kind of grinds to a halt for a spell. But with every loopy scene, every underscored country-ish ballad Sklar croons on the soundtrack — “This is flyover country. They fly over…the BEST.” — you know you’re in the hands of a filmmaker who knows exactly the message he wants to get across and the tone he wants to set.
And if that means he takes every job in the production save for catering, so be it.
MPAA Rating: unrated, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual situations, profanity
Credits: Written and directed by Jeremy “Jer” Sklar. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:31