The Future (Roadside Attractions, R)

Sophie and Jason behave as if this pre-Paw-Paw month is the last month of their lives, though that means something entirely different to Jason than it does to Sophie.

 

 

I hadn’t ever heard of Miranda July before seeing Me & You & Everyone We Know at Sundance in January of 2005. That film was easily one of the ten best films of the past decade, and then July published an incredibly solid collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You, in 2007. She is now an artist from whom I most anticipate new work. This level of expectation can be detrimental to enjoying new material, especially since July doesn’t exactly have a large body of work behind her at this point, but I’m happy to say that her new feature film, The Future, lives up to both my expectations and her talent.

Earlier this year July’s husband, Mike Mills, released his new film Beginners, which is easily one of the best movies of the year so far, and July’s influence on the film is rather noticeable (compare how personal and insightful it is as compared to his pre-July film Thumbsucker, which was at best an interesting failure and at worst a parade of quirkiness and snark). Watching The Future you can see that Mills’ influence is just as strong as July’s was on Beginners, which is kind of cute—in fact, it’s hard not to read The Future as being at least somewhat autobiographical on July’s part, if only because she plays the female lead, Sophie, and Sophie has been in a relationship with her boyfriend Jason (Hamish Linklater) for approximately the same amount of time as July and Mills have been together, and most of the film’s time is spent establishing the nature of their relationship and their individual characters. (Not saying that The Future is actually autobiographical; just that it’s hard not to view it that way.)

The deal here is that Sophie and Jason are a month away from adopting a very sick cat, Paw-Paw, who will require constant care upon moving in. When they agree to take Paw-Paw they are under the impression that she will only be alive for a few more months, but they soon find out that if they do a good job Paw-Paw will live for about five more years. Being 35 and not able to ever leave Paw-Paw alone, Sophie and Jason worry that the month leading up to their picking up Paw-Paw from the shelter will be the last month of their lives where they can basically do anything they want. Jason has a great line somewhere here about how when they are done with Paw-Paw they’ll be 40 and 40 is basically 50 and after 50 it’s just spare change—“not enough to get anything you want.” So, in a contrivance common to film, Sophie and Jason behave as if this pre-Paw-Paw month is the last month of their lives, though that means something entirely different to Jason as it does to Sophie. Jason spends it learning about life from an old man and Sophie spends it experimenting with new things, like shutting off the internet and trying to post a new dance video on YouTube each day (and no, those two decisions don’t go together very well).

A lot of July’s preoccupations are present here—the passing of time (or, in this case, the stopping of time), grasping for connections (often via the internet), precocious children, confused sexual encounters, etc., but the thrust of The Future is more focused and personal than was Me & You; this is really only Sophie and Jason’s story, where Me & You covered a lot of ground and a lot of characters. I say that this is only Sophie and Jason’s story, but really it is also Paw-Paw’s story; it is actually Paw-Paw who narrates the film, and most of the story revolves around her. That’s the film’s one flaw, too; the content of Paw-Paw’s narration is well done and overall it is used well, but July herself affects a scratchy voice for the voice of Paw-Paw, and it’s a little too distancing that it is obviously her doing it—I think it was a missed opportunity to not cast a good voice actor in the role. Still, that one minor flaw is nothing compared to the insight and creativity July displays here, which talent is matched by an embarrassingly small number of modern filmmakers. | Pete Timmermann

 

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