There’s an annoying sense of familiarity in the beginning of Miranda July’s ultimately charming film, The Future. Two, shaggy characters are immediately introduced, Sophie (July, who also wrote and directed), and Jason (Hamish Linklater). Much takes place in the humble apartment belonging to these two. It’s not immediately clear if Jason and Sophie are siblings, or lovers, and this lack of romanticism (as they are, in fact, in a long-term, romantic relationship) hints at the film’s initially ordinary trajectory. Fortunately, Ms. July has an uncanny ability to construct magic and surrealism around a most pedestrian subject.
Indeed, a talking cat makes several appearances. So does a talking moon and a t-shirt capable of moving itself in a crawling fashion. And at one point, Jason discovers an ability to stop time. This shouldn’t suggest, however, that The Future is facetious, or quaint. Despite often being quite funny, the film’s biggest strength is its adeptness at handling complex emotions with a refined grace.
Despite being in their mid-thirties, Jason and Sophie still have a childlike approach to life and ambitions–artistic and otherwise. These ambitions are growing fainter, but are very much still present. The childless couple is confronted with reality when they take a wounded stray cat to a veterinary hospital which they plan to adopt in thirty days, after it has finished healing. They name him Paw-Paw. The thought of the responsibility required to constantly care for an ill cat (something about renal failure is mentioned along with a complicated medication schedule) incites a panic in Sophie and Jason. They decide to finally do the something wonderful they had always planned on doing, and they have to do it before they were saddled with Paw-Paw.
Paw-Paw is the previously mentioned speaking cat, by the way, addressing the audience while we are only ever allowed to see it’s gesturing paws. They quit their jobs (dance teacher for toddlers, tech support). Jason begins volunteering for an eco-friendly cause. Sophie plans to create thirty dances in thirty days that she hopes will garner her some attention on the internet.
Sophie’s newly freed up days spawns an affair with a suburban dad named Marshall (David Warshofsky). At this point, The Future is in dangerous territory: another story of quirky bohemians in a rocky place with their relationship. It doesn’t make the same mistakes as all the similar films that came before it. It’s a strangely affecting film, that’s both weird and consuming. The surrealist aspects of the film lend themselves into a wonderful metaphor on life, relationships, and pain. It’s this gentle suggestion that even the ordinary in life can feel grandiose, and cosmic that makes it powerful and familiar. Who hasn’t stopped time and had a conversation with the moon during a break up? Or at least wanted to?