by Sam Flancher
Currently Playing at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, IL
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Offbeat, quirky, spacey. These are just a few adjectives that could be used to describe the mainstream conception of the independent film. Seemingly everything tagged “indie” contains hand-drawn credits, whistling scores, and awkward central characters. With so many of these glib, shallow, Juno-like features hitting the screens in recent years, it’s easy to write off the genre as a gimmick-laden mess.
Enter Miranda July and her latest film, The Future. Offbeat, quirky, and spacey, this film is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant movement. It’s refreshing because it uses its eccentricities to communicate honest, universal emotion. The quirks are tools rather than gimmicks. They’re a means to an end, rather than a hopeless display of empty style.
The Future delves into all-encompassing feelings, emotions, and anxieties. Tonally darker than her first feature Me You and Everyone We Know, July has created an honest exploration of the fleetingness of life and the impending onset of adulthood.
Jason (Hamish Linklater) and Sophie (July) are thirtysomethings in a relationship in Los Angeles. Sophie is a children’s dance teacher and Jason works tech support from home. Their jobs are just enough to support their undemanding lifestyle. Eventually, their decision to adopt an injured cat (who narrates the film) plunges them into an anxious fervor as they realize that their lives are almost over. Their frantic conclusion (“Forty is basically fifty. And then after fifty, the rest is just loose change.”) allows them to quit their jobs and begin to search for something more meaningful.
This search manifests itself in very different ways. For Jason, it means getting tied up in environmental door knocking and beginning a friendship with an old man. He’s searching for something – a sign or moment of some significance. Sophie, on the other hand, retreats from her bohemian lifestyle into a more comfortable, suburban existence. She begins a relationship with a middle-aged man – opting for security over independence.
There are moments of pure beauty in The Future. At one point, just as Sophie is about to tell Jason of her affair, Jason holds his hand on her head and stops time. While the world remains frozen, his anxious psyche is laid bare by a conversation with the moon. He knew what bad news was about to come, but he chose to stop the declaration in a frantic burial of confrontation. His honest, flawed denial of the very real situation is something no person can deny experiencing.
The narrating cat also provides moments of beauty and clarity. Its brutally earnest asides from its cage at the animal shelter offer up a kind of tragic honesty. These brief segments of the film lay bare the wants and needs of the characters. It’s astonishing to watch.
The Future achieves many things. It explores the anxiety of life, the need for comfort and care, and the all-too-quick onset of life and death. It’s hilarious, poignant, and polarizing. Above all, though, The Future is proof that quirk and eccentricity can be used for something much greater – much deeper – than what recent independents have forced us to believe.
Sam Flancher is a film student at Columbia College Chicago. He currently lives in Chicago and is a freelance writer and videographer.
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