Reviewed at the Sundance Film Festival 2011.
Those with tweeness sensitivities should be aware that “The Future,” Miranda July’s long-awaited follow-up to “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” is sporadically and lispingly narrated by a cat, and examines about how stress over the impending arrival of said cat, a rescue animal of uncertain health named Paw-Paw, shakes the foundations of the relationship of a 30ish Los Angeles couple.
Perhaps you think that people hovering around the age of 35 should be able to shoulder what are, all things considered, the not outlandish burdens of a pet. Perhaps the prospect of an existential breakdown triggered by one’s inability to launch a successful YouTube dance video project seems silly. But given a little patience, “The Future” blossoms into something lovely and melancholy, a magical realist miniature about the dread of time passing, the gradual narrowing of options that underlies the watery commitment-phobia of its central couple.
July is Sophie and Hamish Linklater is Jason, and the two live together in a shabby chic studio apartment they pay for with noncommittal jobs as a children’s dance instructor and an on-call IT guy. The pet adoption turns out to be noncommittal as well — Paw-Paw has renal failure and likely won’t live very long. He’s temporary. But given a 30-day window before they’re allowed to pick him up from the shelter, Sophie and Jason decide to wallow in their last unfettered days by quitting their jobs and setting what are, for them, ambitious goals. Sophie will do 30 dances, a new one each day, on YouTube, and Jason will go out into the universe in search of a sign, in search of meaning.
July’s sensibility is more pronounced here than in her first film — the characters speak in capricious non sequiturs that come out as more revealing and wistful than they seem to have intended. “I wish I was just one notch prettier,” Sophie tells Jason. “I’m right on the edge. I have to make my case with each new person.” While the pair make mention of friends, we don’t see them, which makes the gradual disruptions to their floating world more apparent, as the realism falls away and Jason is able to talk to the moon, Sophie to see colleagues’ pregnancies accelerate into grown children into adults during the course of one conversation.
A t-shirt crawls down Sophie’s street and into the house, and she pulls it on upside down, stretching the material over her head like a cocoon and finding, perhaps, the dance she’s been looking for. It’s a strange, bewitching scene, one that encapsulates all the ineffable angst that’s been building over the film, the frustration that you’re not the person you wanted to become, the terror that the life you’re leading isn’t preparation for something vague upcoming improved thing, but is simply what you have.
“The Future” does not yet have U.S. distribution.