However “The Future” makes you feel, it’s clear that Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”), the film’s writer, director and star, is in complete control. Above everything soars the exactness of July’s vision, and the film’s whimsical tone, hovering between funny, touching, awkward and epic, is executed beautifully. This is a film that completely takes in its audience.
At the Michigan
July and Hamish Linklater (TV’s “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) star as Sophie and Jason, a 30-something couple living in Los Angeles. Both work unfulfilling jobs for which they’re overqualified (Sophie is a dance instructor for toddlers and Jason does tech support over the phone from home), and they wile away most of their time on Facebook or YouTube.
The movie opens with a scratchy, adorable narrator, which turns out to be a stray cat, telling the story of its rescue by Sophie and Jason. The couple decides to adopt Paw-Paw, as they’ve named him, but first he must spend a month at the vet.
In the intervening time, Jason and Sophie, through a convoluted kind of reasoning only bored, underused minds are capable of, conclude that this month is the last they’ll have to really live. The two promptly quit their jobs and get down to some serious re-evaluating.
This may sound like your run-of-the-mill indie dramedy premise, but the film is much more than that. “The Future” is cleverly and precisely written, often laugh-out-loud funny, and the rapport of the two stars is pitch perfect. They achieve a subdued but sublime absent-minded earnestness that’s delightful to watch.
Jason, in his re-examining of his life, vows to be more alert, to take notice of the little things of everyday life. This is a maxim that Sophie also follows and a principle that the movie itself operates on. Under the film’s deliberate pace and its careful consideration of the smallest details, every object, every miniscule gesture, transforms into a momentous event. For these characters, the course of their entire lives hangs on the film’s every moment.
The characters are in a fragile state and the audience feels this acutely because the film makes us feel it: “The Future” continually undergoes slight shifts in mood, and always teeters precariously between comedy and melancholy. The film’s ability to control the audience’s emotions is amazing — and comforting, in a way. It feels good to be in the hands of such a talented filmmaker.
“The Future,” despite its seemingly tame premise, doesn’t shy away from dealing with larger psychological and existential issues. July takes serious risks — a cat narrator, for one — but they are executed precisely, and each one pays off. The film even wanders into some cosmic, mystical territory (Jason converses with the moon at one point), but it all serves the narrative, and it’s all cleverly done.
Some bizarre things certainly happen in “The Future,” but however strange the film becomes, the events are still very real for the characters, whether we believe what is happening or not. The film is also remarkably honest about its characters, and about life, with some throw-off lines that offer more insight than entire movies. This is a profoundly truthful film.
Sometimes the film’s pace leads to some flat moments, and it seems to try to deliver a message that’s maybe a little too broad. But the film is beautifully shot and smartly directed, and the strength of the characters and the performances always rise above its few mistakes. All in all, “The Future” is one of the best films of the year so far.