SXSW FILM 2011
By Don Simpson | March 22, 2011
Director: Miranda July
Writer(s): Miranda July
Starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky
Poor Paw Paw (creepily voiced by Miranda July), our narrator and…ahem…talking cat is dying. With only six months to live, Paw Paw requires constant medical attention. No one wants to adopt Paw Paw, that is until a cute curlicued couple, Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) decide that they will do a good deed and bring Paw Paw home with them. After they commit to taking care of Paw Paw, Sophie and Jason are informed by the animal clinic that their love and care will probably help Paw Paw live significantly longer, a revelation that strikes the two of them like a lightening bolt.
Suddenly, Sophie and Jason perceive their adoption of Paw Paw as the end of their lives while Paw Paw sees it as the highly anticipated renewal of his. It will be another 28 days until Sophie and Jason can officially bring Paw Paw home, so they have time to mentally prepare for this impending change in their lives. Sophie and Jason, both 35 years old, decide that they should make the very most of their remaining days of freedom. (“We’re 35 now…by the time the cat dies, we’ll be 40…might as well be 50…after that, spare change.” “Spare change?” “Less than a dollar — not enough to get anything you want.”)
Sophie quits her job as a dance instructor and promises herself that she will record a new dance routine on You Tube every day for the next 28 days. Jason quits his job as a computer support technician and opting to “look for coincidences” and “listen to what people are saying” for hints regarding his destiny, he becomes a volunteer for an environmental non-profit, Tree by Tree. (Jason describes the current state of the world, thanks in no small part to global warming, as a building just as it has been hit by a wrecking ball in a cartoon.) Sophie also releases them from the greatest shackle of them all by discontinuing their Internet service.
Jason’s new life suits him pretty well, but Sophie is unable to gain any momentum toward her goals. As a couple, their perceived freedoms begin gnawing at their relationship bonds; an insurmountable distance quickly grows between them. This is around the time where two key supporting characters, Marshall (David Warshofsky) and Joe (Joe Putterlik), are catapulted into the picture. Jason finds himself in a position that he must stop time (something he has claimed the ability to do ever since the opening scene), while Sophie partakes in a rebirth of sorts, via a stunningly surreal cocoon-like dance in a yellow t-shirt.
Sophie and Jason begin the film so perfectly matched for each other that they could have been twins. Now they are utter strangers because they embarked in making one serious commitment—the adoption of an ailing pet. Unfortunately, they cannot truly comprehend the dire consequences of breaking their commitment, not just to themselves, but also to Paw Paw. (Poor Paw Paw…) The fate of their relationship weighs heavily upon Paw Paw’s future. With allusions to the female baby factory, the female menstrual cycle (28 days) and fertility (35 years old, often the age associated with a sharp decline in fertility), The Future serves as apparent analogies for the certainty of the passage of time and “aging” couples whose seemingly perfect relationships become devastated by the possibility of throwing a baby into the mix. To many people, babies are the ultimate sign of commitment and represent the loss of personal freedom for the parents.
Following up on her near brilliant directorial debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know, writer-director Miranda July takes The Future to some new and fascinating places. The Future, unlike Me and You and Everyone We Know, dives deep into a world that mixes magical realism (the talking cat, Jason’s ability to stop time, etc.) with surrealism. She may have felt somewhat confined to cinematic conventions in Me and You and Everyone We Know; but with The Future, July expresses a uniquely personal freedom of expression. As psychologically cerebral as The Future seems, it is the work of unadulterated eye candy as well, with its luscious color palate, keen fashion eye, and wondrously theatrical scenes of performance art.
July also rehashes situations that are familiar to us from Me and You and Everyone We Know. Both films reveal that July is fascinated by relationships between people who “know” each other and between complete strangers and creates various scenarios to compare and contrast the levels of kindness, strangeness and romanticism inherent in each pairing. July’s characters are deeply flawed and unpredictable, revealing incredibly wide ranges of emotions and desires. The differences between coincidence and fate are practically indistinguishable; I sometimes wonder if July is working out her theological beliefs concerning the presence of a “higher power” at the rate of 24 frames per second.