Director Miranda July Stars Miranda July, Hamish Linklater Germany/USA 2011 Language English 1hr 31mins Colour
Bleak comedy about facing up to the fact that your life hasn’t gone to plan
Some years ago, performance artist Miranda July made an indie comedy called Me And You And Everyone We Know. I was sceptical about it, possibly because of the title, maybe because I had read a little about July’s other work. Anyway, I don’t remember much about the film, except that I liked it.
Her second film, The Future, is darker. If I tell you that it is narrated by July playing a cat, it will sound horribly twee. But there is a point to this device – the animal (we only see its blatantly fake paws, one bandaged, one not, as it talks) – is an ailing rescue cat that a couple have promised to adopt once it has recovered from treatment. The pair are warned, starkly, that if they don’t turn up in exactly a month’s time, the cat will be put down.
The couple are Sophie (July, again) and Jason (Hamish Linklater). In their mid-thirties, with no kids, getting the cat, who they are told could live another five years with good care, is their stab at commitment.
‘We’ll be 40 in five years.’
’40 is basically 50, and after 50 the rest is just loose change.’
With that thought, they descend into a blind panic, deciding they have to transform their lives in the few weeks before their freedom expires. They both quit their jobs with little idea of what do next, except Sophie has decided to film 30 dances to upload to You Tube when they get their internet turned on again (going offline being another of their abrupt resolutions).
At the start, Sophie and Jason seem to one of those couples who are a little too much alike. They both have curly mops of dark hair – his is longer, making him look like he should be in a band from 1983 – and similar features. July has said both characters are basically both her, so that makes sense. In the opening scene, they seem happy living pretty much on top of one another (he does some kind of tech support from home), but the cracks soon show.
At heart, this is an acutely observed look at early midlife crisis, when you reach that realisation that you will never amount to that much. But July peppers that with little moments of magic realism, just enough to give The Future a mood all of its own, rather than simply choking you with its anxiety.
I liked lots of bits of dialogue (or, often, monologue, because the characters aren’t really communicating). Sophie says, ‘I wish I was one notch prettier – I’m right on the edge, where it’s up to each person to decide for themselves. I have to make my case with each new person.’
Jason, faced with the knowledge what Sophie is about to say is going to ruin his life, says something we’ve all thought, but I think the way he expresses it is good: ‘If you’re going to say something really bad, could you just wait a moment, I need a moment…’
What the film does then is interesting, too…
In a lot of ways this is classic US indie stuff – there are only a handful of characters, the main ones are boho types who think way too much – but that’s OK. I like its take on Los Angeles. I’m even broadly OK with the interpretative dance (I have no idea whether we’re meant to think it’s any good or not, but that’s fine, too. I think).
It’s not a happy film. If you going through one of those times when you question pretty much everything about what you’ve been doing for the last 10 or 20 years, this might be uncomfortable viewing. Then again, it might useful viewing.