Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
October 2011

The Future

Tomorrow never comes

Miranda July offers up a strange and rewarding sophomore feature in 'The Future'

The Future
Roadside Attractions
Director: Miranda July
Screenplay: Miranda July
Starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres, Joe Putterlik and Angela Trimbur
Rated R / 1 hour, 31 minutes
Now playing in limited release
(out of four)

There comes a moment in time when you're faced with the terrifying realization that this is your life. And you have not become a world leader, and you have not become an Internet sensation, and that not only has time gotten away from you, but you're quickly running out of it.

The future comes next, and even that's only an abstraction - its ambiguity the root cause of your constant passivity, its inevitability the one absolute truth you've yet to face. And so what do you do? If you're a character in The Future, you simply stop the future from happening. Or try to, anyway. You put your hands up and you stop the moon from rotating, and you stop the tides, and you bring time to a screeching halt.

What will happen when you put your hands down? Will everything fast-forward, racing to catch up? Or has time simply been moving on without you all along? Will the world have changed when you finally decide to ease your grip on time and space and simply let it be?

I've just described (confusingly, I'm sure) a key sequence in The Future, as Jason (Hamish Linklater) - one half of an all-too-comfortably passive, 30-something bohemian couple still stuck somewhere on the cusp of grown-up life, right between youthful anticipation and middle-aged ennui - takes out his frustration with a sudden, uncontrollable life change by literally freezing time where it stands. Such a magical idea - one treated so matter-of-factly and without question - could only exist in a movie like this.

It (and the film) is the brainchild of Miranda July, the noted visual and performance artist who made her filmmaking debut six years ago with the great Me and You and Everyone We Know. What I got most out of that scene - oh, and did I mention Jason talks to the moon as well? And no, it's not quite as cutesy as it sounds - was what it says about July's observational skills.

It could easily be dismissed as quirky, but that's unfair. There is such a thing as quirk for quirk's sake. But the absurd and strange and surreal ideas July creates are simply the roundabout way she gets to rather poignant, perceptive insights about modern life. Or life in general, for that matter.

In addition to directing and writing, July also stars as the other half of the aforementioned couple, Sophie - a wannabe professional dancer who insists she's overqualified for her paying job as a dance instructor to small children. Jason, meanwhile, is some kind of techie customer-support rep, working from home. His home office consists of a telephone and the dining room table.

Sophie and Jason fit almost too perfectly together. They act alike and sound alike. They even kinda look alike. They are "content," but, well, that's sometimes the enemy of ambition, isn't it? They may be content, but they're not happy - they just don't quite seem to know that, or at least won't accept the implications of it. Too frightening.

When they decide to adopt an injured cat named Paw-Paw (who also narrates the film), it seems to be the first thing in a long while to jog them out of a constant state of complacency. They're faced with actual responsibility - something they're not sure they're even ready for; something they don't seem to realize is overdue, as if they thought they could always just put off being an adult until the next day. Or the next.

Once, not so long ago, the idea of adulthood was, to them, just as much of an abstraction as the future is now - but the future, well, it'll be here soon enough, too. Won't it?

The way July captures basic human fears, human fragility, human attitudes and failings, is astounding at times. Consider the sequence when a pair of old friends show up at Sophie's job, both pregnant, and proceed to grow older, and have children, and then grandchildren, right in front of her eyes. The metaphor of the surreal moment is obvious, but no less terrifying and no less truthful.

What July resists, for the most part at least, is turning this story into a whiny confessional about old dreams and lost chances. She's too good for that. Not everything about The Future works, but, like her previous film, it hits on a number of undeniable truths, and always from a different direction than we expect.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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