Miranda July’s second film “The Future” is a multi-layered narrative poem, precious in aesthetics, powerful in vision and devastating in sincerity. “The Future” will drill a small, undetectable hole into your heart, leaving you unsure if July has extracted your fears and loves and splashed them across the screen or injected them, from the screen, into you.
The story follows a young L.A. couple, played by Hamish Linklater and July herself. The film opens with a purring voice, describing life on “the outside,” before showing the couple, slouched on either end of a couch, legs extended towards each other, laptops angled on their thighs: a 21st century relationship. We soon learn that the purring voice belongs to an injured alley cat July and Linklater have brought to a shelter to have his paw healed. The cat tells us that the couple has named him Paw Paw and has promised to return in a month to pick him up from the shelter. July and Linklater realize at the onset of the film that their lives will be changed drastically by the arrival of Paw Paw, just as a couple’s life might be changed by the arrival of a child. The couple must pick up Paw Paw in a month or he will be euthanized, and so the deadline is set.
The film’s overwhelming tone is one of meek desperation at the fast passing of time, the impossible pace at which opportunity seems to slip away. Unlike the common films that center on individuals with a month left to live, “The Future” is painfully realistic; not everyone determined to do great things will do them, and some inertia cannot be overcome with a reality check. As July quits her job as a dance teacher and sets out to create 30 dances in 30 days for a YouTube page, her boyfriend breaks off from his Internet job and sets out with the belief that his calling will find him if he just opens himself up to life.
As you watch the couple run up against paralysis, distraction, paranoia, pain and all the other roadblocks to creativity and creation, your heart goes out to them. And the cat, Paw Paw, delivers a sucker-punch of cuteness (which one fellow writer in the audience declared borderline “twee”) and serves not only as a catalyst for action and a narrator, but as a wise counsel to the audience, seeing what July and Linklater (and we ourselves in our daily lives) fail to recognize.
Set to a score by Jon Brion (“Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind”), “The Future” delves into the world of dreams and the supernatural dynamic of time and, with July’s signature brand of absurd honesty, discusses the kind of truths that appear surreal at first glance then entirely common and real and right a moment later. The narrative follows the fragility of relationships, the ambiguity of desire and the eagerness with which we retreat from our dreams and manages to recreate in its audience the same restlessness, adoration and fear of its subjects. Many moments during the film feel like a biting of the lip or a prolonged sigh, from the crisis of infidelity to the heartbreak of being a day too late.
July is a multi-talented poet, author, film director, screenwriter and actress — she is, in a word, an Artist, and “The Future” is the most natural and beautiful of her works yet.