Sydney Film Festival – The Future (2011)

The Future, 2011.

Directed by Miranda July.
Starring Miranda July and Hamish Linklater.


SYNOPSIS:

When a couple decides to adopt a stray cat their perspective on life is changed dramatically.


Following her fantastic multi award winning (most notably Camera D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival) debut Me, You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July’s The Future follows 30 days in the life of L.A. couple Jason (Hamish Linklater) and Sophie (July) – who try drastically attempt to start living out their life’s dreams before they are bound to their commitment to a terminally ill adopted Cat – Paw Paw – the films narrator.

We hear in the voice over narration that they’re going to adopt a cat and the characters are sure that it will have a limited life span – when they visit the Vet where Paw Paw resides they discover that if they truly bond with it that it could live for a long time. Jason and Sophie panic – they’ve adopted a terminally ill cat to ensure that this commitment and responsibility for a life is temporary. The prospect of a longer-term commitment causes an existential crisis. This seemingly minor event is the catalyst for the characters to attempt to drastically change and improve their lives.

Jason and Sophie are flawed and quirky and have a great chemistry. Jason is an tech-support worker that works from his home who abandons his job in this final ’30 days’ to adopt the philosophy of letting his ‘destiny’ call out to him. This leads him to volunteer for a conservationist group that travels door-to-door selling trees. During his travels he meets one receptive client, a wise, dirty limerick writing, sage that imparts his experience about love and life. Jason feels an indelible connection to him that initially is unqualified.

Sophie is a dance teacher that doesn’t seem to be able to dance in the style that is required of her. She’s constantly jealous of the audience and attention that her work colleague garners by her provocative and gyrating YouTube dances. So like Hamish, she leaves her job teaching kids to embark on a 30 Dances in 30 Days ‘YouTube challenge’ in her final thirty days. Sophie is perpetually distracted and finds herself addicted to watching the dances of everyone else instead of choreographing her own. In an attempt to get away from the distraction Sophie cancels their Internet connection and formulates a plan to achieve her challenge. In the midst of one of her distracted moments she sees the phone number on the back of the drawing that Hamish purchased and calls the artist, which changes the course of their future.

The films title The Future was actually changed from Separation (its working title). July establishes two characters physically together but immediately separated by their connection to technology. The opening shot is constructed with Jason and Sophie forming a ‘U’ shape by sitting directly facing each other on their lounge. But they are both staring at their laptops and not each other.

In any examination of the future (especially in the science fiction genre) filmmakers pose questions about our reliance on technology and how it interacts or will interact with humanity. And throughout The Future interaction with technology perpetually disappoints, fails and depresses the characters. Instead of positing these questions to a far off impression of the future, July skilfully brings those questions down to two individuals in the present day and acts questions about an increasingly ‘present’ future state.

July’s rich script is constantly generating disarmingly beautiful moments – in particular when Jason and Sophie agree upon a song to play as an aural key to unlock the memory of their love in case they forget it during their endeavour (which fails in the moment it is needed most because of a flat iPod battery). Like Me, You and Everyone We Know there are moments where characters are able to manipulate time and the very conventional temporality established at the beginning of the film is progressively messed with. I loved how seamless the future projection was integrated into the films mostly conventional reality and how each character interacted with the [un]reality around them in these moments.

The Future illustrates the fleeting reality of life, and challenges people scared of the seemingly racing clock. And to use a phenomenal line from the film, we’re viewing a relationship that like a building immediately after the impact of wrecking ball stands for a split second before it crumbles into debris. I was moved by this film – and although audience expectations of genius illustrated in Me, You and Everyone We Know may lead them to not immediately love this film, the filmmaking landscape is a far more optimistic prospect if Miranda July continues making films.

Blake Howard is a writer/site director/podcaster at the castleco-op.com.

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