Miranda July is an artist, writer, and filmmaker whose work gives off a vibe of hippie New Age whimsicality. Everything I read about her suggests she is not for me. Yet both of her feature films -- Me and You and Everyone We Know and now The Future -- have been agreeably spacey, even emotionally resonant. Whatever her deal is, she's good at it.
The Future, which July wrote, directed, and stars in, is partially narrated -- and poetically, too -- by a cat named Paw Paw. (Get used to things like that.) This cat will soon be adopted by a free-spirited 30-something couple named Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), but the cat has a terminal illness and will require daily care for as long as he lives. This could be anywhere from six months to five years. Sophie and Jason, who do not have children and can barely fend for themselves, are suddenly aware that they are getting older, that they will die eventually, and that owning this cat will be a huge responsibility.
Basically, Jason and Sophie figure that once they bring Paw Paw home, their lives are over. It will be too late for any major traveling or lifestyle adjustments. That gives them 30 more days of youth and freedom, one more month to truly live.
Jason quits his dull job doing tech support over the telephone and sets out to let fate find him a new calling. Sophie, a dance instructor for children, quits her gig so she can focus on creating her own dance videos, which she will post on YouTube. (She'll have to upload them from someplace with public Wi-Fi, since she has canceled her and Jason's Internet service for this month.)
Naturally, the self-imposed deadline results in frustration. Forcing yourself to find enlightenment is like forcing yourself to fall asleep. Jason and Sophie, working fruitlessly on their separate goals, lose their connection with each other. Their very relationship is threatened. Jason talks to the moon, which talks back to him. Sophie befriends an older man (David Warshofsky) who represents the drab suburban life she would never want for herself.
You can't take very much of The Future at face value. The story eventually becomes surreal and metaphorical; more than once I was reminded of Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York. Jason and Sophie speak slowly and in soft tones, as if they were on acid. Many of their experiences are bizarre and seemingly senseless -- Jason buys a used hairdryer for $3 from an old man on Craigslist; Sophie's new friend's young daughter wants to be buried up to her neck in the backyard -- and the viewer has to determine what, if anything, the hell it's all supposed to mean.
So it gets rather arty, but I didn't find it pretentious. In fact, the overall tone of the movie is quite sweet and earnest, with these two goofy souls learning not to put off happiness or to resist the passage of time. The film's gentle humor and imaginative digressions won me over, saying things that other works of fiction say all the time, but saying them in a creative way. Plus, you know, narrating cat. Can't go wrong with that.
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Eric D. Snider (website) has seen The Future.