BFI London Film Festival 2011: ‘The Future’


Miranda July’s 2005 surreal debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know showcased her enormous potential, with fans of quirky, independent, cinema desperate to see what she’d produce next. Narrated by a caged, injured cat, The Future (2011) expands upon July’s unique ability to capture the difficulties of developing relationships and the awkwardness of making emotional attachments.

When a couple (Jason and Sophie, played by Miranda July and Hamish Linklater) decides to adopt a stray, injured cat (Paw-Paw) their perspective on life changes radically, forcing them to readdress their priorities and do something constructive with their insular lives before this dependant ball of fur takes residence in their kooky one bed apartment. However, as the magnitude of their personal problems begins to reveal itself they find not just their relationship under strain but their faith in the meaning of existence as well.

Switching the emphasis away from establishing human connections and taking it one step further The Future revolves around the difficulties of maintaining an adult relationship whilst also conscribing to the belief than one has to make something of their life. The breaking news that Paw-Paw may live beyond the originally estimated 6 months (perhaps even up to five more years) alarms Jason and Sophie and they quickly descend into something of an indie mid-life crisis.

Jason describes turning 40 as pretty much the same as turning 50, with everything after that “Just small change” (less than a dollar and not enough to get what you want). This self-absorbed nature drives the narrative forward into an overbearingly quirky collection of black comedy moments born out of mental instability and dependant on a dehydrating degree of dry humour that more often than not veers off course.

This collection of awkward encounters between the film’s socially inept characters creates an uneasy viewing experience with July’s fondness for the kindness of strangers entering a more surreal realm of uncomfortable sexual encounters and typically muted conversations. Thankfully though the seemingly oddball addition of a narrating cat, despite being outlandishly twee, creates a lovable character amongst a purely self motivated and deeply unlikable ensemble.

The Future begins well, before collapsing under the weight of its own ridiculousness. More often than not this whimsical Investigation into the mental anguish of anxiety feels like July is striving too hard to appear charmingly eccentric, when ironically it’s the films more serious and heartfelt moments which are the most endearing. July is clearly a gifted visual artist but sadly, The Future culminates in an overbearingly idiosyncratic mess of a film that lacks the subtle charm of her debut.

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Patrick Gamble