The Future, 2011.
Directed by Miranda July.
Starring Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky and Isabella Acres.
A couple adopt a stray cat – a decision which radically alters their perspective on life.
The Future is Miranda July’s second feature, and like her debut film Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) she continues to focus on quirky characters and indulge in surreal flavours of storytelling. This film should stand out alone as it features narration from an injured stray cat (yes, that’s right), but more on this later.
Sophie (played by writer/director July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are a couple in their mid-thirties who live in a small apartment in Los Angeles. The film opens with them sitting opposite each other, legs entwined, each on their own individual laptop. Perhaps a message here to highlight how modern technology has infiltrated even the most personal times we spend with those most important to us. But that is not the focus of the film at all.
They want to adopt a stray cat whom they call Paw Paw because of his injured leg. Due to the injury Sophie and Jason must wait for a month before he recovers enough for them to adopt him. After being told that he could live up to five years longer if he is looked after well, having previously been told he may only live for six months, this conjures up feelings of dismay for both members of the couple: that soon they will be approaching the big 4-O, something that Jason acknowledges as “forty is the new fifty. Everything afterwards is loose change.”
And so during the thirty days in which they have to wait for Paw Paw they decide to make drastic changes to their lifestyle’s before, they assume, it’s too late. The first thing they both do is quit their jobs (she, a children’s dance teacher; he, an IT support technician). Jason volunteers for a tree charity looking to address the issue of global warming and Sophie wants to upload dance videos of herself onto the internet like a former work colleague.
All the while we have interjections of Paw Paw’s narration. The cat’s desire to be adopted, his need to be petted and his excitement and determination to wait for Sophie and Jason to collect him are all accompanied by interesting visuals. I couldn’t help but feel these short scenes distracted me from the movie, however they did serve as a constant reminder of the catalyst that altered the couple’s seemingly cosy, if boring, existence together. In the production notes Miranda July says of Paw Paw’s narration “He was the only way I could describe the bittersweet vertigo of true love”, a point that validates this attempt to add depth to the story.
In truth I found it quite difficult to feel emotionally engaged by the two central characters. Sophie especially, particularly in scenes with just her and Jason, really seemed ill at ease. I found myself wondering that if July had focused her attention on either directing the movie or acting in it, but not both, I could have perhaps empathised with Sophie more.
However the same can be said for Hamish Linklater’s Jason. He seemed wooden at times although nuggets of humour did arise with some smart dialogue but that arguably has as much to do with July’s script as his delivery itself.
Addressing the always intriguing notion of mid life crisis is the saving grace of this film as I feel that this movie takes a refreshing approach to exploring the phenomenon. Instead of going through lifestyle changes because they feel they have to, Sophie and Jason decide to because they think they should. Ultimately the film lacked enough pulp to be totally engaging to the audience or rewarding to watch.
Overall I think this film is nothing out of the ordinary and average at best. I doubt it will draw the crowds at the London Film Festival but for those involved and people who like offbeat movies that try to be a little different then they may get more enjoyment out of this picture than I did.
Jon Dudley is a freelance film and television journalist and his 17-minute short film Justification was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.