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The Future (2011) | Review

The Future is the second film from artist-turned-director, Miranda July, who brought us Me and You and Everyone We Know.

It’s a difficult film to place and proves to be very much down the tastes of the individual cinema-goer. Opinions are divided by those who find the film intensely irritating, and self-absorbed, or those that enjoy the frothy and quirky style that characterises much of July’s work. It’s a tale that focuses on the nature of coupledom, the cosy sanctuary people build for themselves and how they react when the structure begins to weaken. The couple in question are Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), a pair of average, low-achievers living in their simple apartment in Los Angeles. Whilst they can be described as content, the relationship exudes a stagnant atmosphere, epitomised by the opening scene that sees the pair sharing the sofa, silently glued to respective laptops. They merely exist in their comfortable, comatose life.

The pair are aware of this, lamenting their jobs that bring them no personal fulfillment and the recognition that they haven’t made the most of themselves. This feeling is merely an awakening that precedes the encounter with reality. This encounter, as it turns out, appears in the shape of Paw-Paw, a rescue cat that the pair decide to adopt. Paw-Paw, I should mention, is the films narrator. From behind his bars, and in a scratchy, childlike voice (Miranda July again!) Paw-Paw provides the commentary on the nature of relationships, the bonds between people and how they form the important aspects of life.

Paw-Paw however cannot be taken home for a month, and this grace period provides the catalyst for change in the lives of Sophie and Jason. Forced to confront the sedated existence they lead, the pair ricochet off in an attempt to mould their lives in to something more substantial. Their respective decisions puts a strain on their relationship, the condition of which continues to degrade. The friction that becomes apparent in the relationship, is sadly juxtaposed with Paw-Paw’s ever growing excitement at becoming part of the family.

The film provides a rather pessimistic view of relationships in this state, yet refuses to grant an escape route. The ‘new’ lives that Jason and Sophie inhabit are just as unfulfilling, and by the end, the comfortable first scene is reflected, albeit broken. The journey is smattered with elements of surrealism that allows July to inject her own style in to the narrative, a style that seems to grate on some but will delight others. At one point Jason stops time in order to deal with the climatic situation, and converses with the moon whilst trying to make sense of his predicament. The light humour that is added to the despairing narrative makes it more palatable, and the moments of surrealism allow objective observers, such as Paw-Paw and the Moon to comment on the proceedings.

If you’re able to enjoy your films with a hint of randomness, and a narrative that offers no hint as to its direction then you’re likely to find The Future enjoyable. It does have a bit of a sting in its tail, and takes a winding route in order to reach its conclusion, but in all honesty, it’s a film that will stand apart from others this year.

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