Miranda July’s ‘The Future’

13Nov11

Life is so ridiculously gorgeous, strange, heartbreaking, horrific etc that we are compelled to describe it to ourselves, but we can’t! We cannot do it! And so we make art.

Miranda July is probably the coolest woman in the world, and a disgustingly high achiever. Her website tells us that she is a filmmaker, artist, and writer whose work has been presented at the Guggenheim, that she has written, directed and starred in two feature films, winning prizes at the Sundance and Cannes Film Festival, and whose award-winning short stories have been published in 20 countries.

Her new film ‘The Future’ is wonderful. The main characters, Los Angeles couple Jason and Sophie, are endearingly cute, gorky and hip, but manage to be self-aware enough to draw you in. Jason is a computer technician who works from home, and Sophie is a dance teacher (not, as she corrects someone, a dancer; it’s the light handling of the death of dreams like these that give the film poignancy and weight). They’re stylish and sweet, bordering on twee, living in an adorable but ramshackle apartment with period features and good art on the walls.

It’s hard to create a film that visits themes of mid-life disappointment, fear and angst without making you want to retch into your quirky, vintage-era kitchenware, but July has done it. Attempts to explore Western dilemmas can seem trite – oh, poor you, financially secure, healthy and stuck in a domestic situation with someone who loves you profoundly! – but hers capture the contradictions of trying to make life meaningful and successful while owing another person something.

Bearing the weight of expectation of another, feeling like the richest and most opportunity-filled moments in life have passed her by, Sophie tests and tries to break their contentment. Their different paths and reactions to their ‘last month’ – before they get a cat, which will tie them down – lead to a chasm, but I didn’t feel depressed when I came out. The film channels a beautiful, uplifting kind of sadness. Jason seems to find an answer; he copes and reaches a kind of wisdom, but it’s a wisdom that won’t necessarily be realised because he is tied to someone else who has let him down. Such is the risk of forming any kind of relationship; such is the injustice of the world.

The trailer hints at the magical realism in the film, an Eternal Sunshine style stopping of time, talking to the moon and listening to the ruminations of animals. I thought these things were going to ruin the film but they work beautifully. Hers is a brave attempt to make something different while covering the same issues that many of us counter. She wants to connect with us, while making something new and marvellous at the same time.

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