Perhaps the quirkiest film you will see this year, Miranda July’s ‘The Future’ is an exploration into the human desire to seek security in a routine and the dangers of breaking the status quo. Oh and there’s a talking cat as well. The premise is simple. Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are the quintessential couple of the ‘Apple generation’. Two 35 year old pseudo-artisans who are glued to their MacBooks, pretend to stop time and have comfortable, but unfulfilling careers. An epiphany comes in the form of ‘Paw Paw’ – an injured cat they agree to adopt before finding out he could potentially live for five more years.
Sophie and Jason decide to seek a lifetime of fulfilment in the month before the cat’s arrival, as in five years they will be forty and their lives will be “basically over”. The film has a very slow pace and relies on long, uncomfortable silences to show us how the characters evolve during their individual adventures into spontaneity.
In this sense, July shows an impressive ability to capture the social awkwardness we all experience day-to-day; Jason buying a painting he doesn’t want, purely to avoid upsetting a little girl is a perfect example of the sort guilty altruism that dictates many of our actions.
However, it is in the more surreal scenes that the film truly shines. The standout set piece involves Jason having a heated debate with the moon after he realises he has manifested a genuine ability to stop time. His run through LA’s frozen streets and his attempts to restart time by physically pulling the ocean back into life allow July to show off her ability to direct on a much grander scale than we have previously seen. Similarly, the living T-shirt that stalks Sophie adds a small injection of light-hearted whimsy into some of the heavier scenes.
The film is not without its flaws though. The slow pace is initially good for gently introducing the characters, but as the plot progresses you find that each scene drags on a few moments too long and the film loses some of its initial momentum.
But this is a minor complaint when compared to the frequent interjections from ‘Paw Paw’ herself. Voiced by July (sounding like an elderly woman who’s been punched in the throat), the cat offers a combination of narration and philosophical musings on concepts such as the “unspeakable darkness”. They begin as a novelty; they end as a massive annoyance.
In spite of that, this is an incredibly brave and unique film. As the characters grow apart pursuing their new lives, we see the writing on the wall long before the final scenes, which offer a touching insight; the realisation that once you leave your comfort zone, you can never return.