No Future, 2021.
Directed Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot.
Starring Catherine Keener, Charlie Heaton, Rosa Salazar, Jackie Earle Haley, Jefferson White, Austin Amelio, Heather Kafka, and Jason Douglas.
After the tragic overdose of his estranged friend, Will, a recovering addict, returns home, where he is reunited with Claire, his friend’s grieving mother.
Opening at an addiction meeting, No Future sees Will (seen in last year’s abysmal The New Mutants, given a much more conflicted and complicated character, allowing for relatively strong and empathetic work) admits that he is no longer struggling with temptation. He has a different issue, nervous to fully let his girlfriend Becca (Rosa Salazar) into his life for fear that she will turn around and run away if he opens up too much about his past other than the basics of being a former addict. This is also weighing extra heavy on his mind considering he is contemplating asking her to live with him.
In the same night, another reminder of his self-destructive past comes walking back into his life, as Chris (Jefferson White) visits Will’s home unannounced (while Becca is there) to begin a private conversation about junkie life and once upon a time having a band together. Will has moved on and has no interest in being friends with someone failing at kicking their vices. He mentions that he doesn’t feel superior for having more control over those impulses and quitting cold, but the interaction is more or less one of disinterest. That’s also unfortunate as for Chris; this is a cry for help.
Chris returns to his mom Claire’s (Catherine Keener) home, where she tries to have a reasonable conversation with him before observing if he is clean or not and then allowing him to be in his room alone. Chris throws on some of the band’s music (the title of the movie comes from one of their albums) and starts shooting up, passing away from an overdose with Claire realizing something is wrong as she is getting no response while trying to have a heart-to-heart with her son and knocking on the door.
It’s safe to say that what ensues is a study of grieving from multiple perspectives, with directors Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot (with Mark writing the screenplay) comfortable letting scenes and dialogues drag on as they seem fit. It’s also made apparent that Will has a rocky relationship with his father Philip (Jackie Earle Haley), who blames his son’s drug addiction for putting their cancer-ridden mother into a grave even earlier due to the amount of stress he brought on the family. There’s also the ugly truth that Chris would still be alive if Will didn’t get him hooked in the first place.
As all of this continues to overwhelm those affected, Will further pushes away Becca, frequently visiting Claire, burdened with guilt and apologizing. Not only is she a forgiving person despite her grief, but she starts to see Will in another way, trying to replace what’s lost. It’s best to be vague since there is a scene roughly 30 minutes in that, at least if you are going in blind, shakes up the character dynamics to a genuinely surprising degree. And since No Future is confident enough in its bleak and atmospheric glacial pacing, it means this story direction reveal that, while initially jarring, is entirely believable given what the characters are going through and must be feeling.
There’s also an unfortunate sense that the filmmakers don’t quite know where to go with an ending, closing on a somewhat rushed note that has at least one person acting out of character and mishandling certain aspects for convenient plotting. Still, No Future assuredly slithers its way into the headspace of its hurting protagonists, with Catherine Keener and Charlie Heaton delivering somber and affecting performances.
There’s a piercing sharpness to Will’s cynical state of mind, unable to bring himself to lowering his guard around someone he loves. In contrast, Claire seems stuck somewhere between acceptance and denial, seeking an escape from crushing loneliness and depression. It’s just a shame No Future wraps itself up too soon, but as a layered and meticulous look at grieving and the ways addiction tortures the psyche beyond getting clean, it’s honest and engaging.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com