Miranda July’s penchant for the peculiar hasn’t suffered in the six years between Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) and her latest film, The Future. But it’s more than the peculiar that keeps audiences returning to July’s films, books and performance art; it’s her ability to celebrate the mundane. In The Future July creates a surreal world that toes the line between reality and fantasy, inviting audiences to constantly question what’s playing out in front of their eyes.
The pending adoption of a sick cat creates an unexpected ultimatum for Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), a thirty-something couple exhausted by the monotony of their daily routines. Once they realize that when the cat is released in thirty days, he’ll need around-the-clock medical attention, their worlds are turned upside down. Coming to grips with the fact that everything they know will inevitably change, Sophie and Jason decide to quit their jobs, disconnect from the Internet, and pursue the dreams they’d pushed aside to embrace mediocrity.
Sophie chases YouTube fame by forcing herself to create a new dance in front of her webcam every day while Jason, seemingly grasping onto the idealism of his suddenly fleeting youth, takes a more existential approach. “I’m going to look for coincidences … mistakes … I’m going to listen to what people are saying—especially if they’re touching a doorknob,” he mutters, glassy eyed.
What at first seems like a harmless stab at finding one’s self abruptly evolves into a something so unexpected, it’s hard to tell if any of it is really happening. July blurs the line between her character’s thoughts and reality so well, determining if scenes are playing out in her character’s minds or in their actuality is, for the most part, left to the audience’s discretion.
The casting of Linklater as July’s complacent boyfriend is flawless. Linklater’s shaggy hair is a mirror to July’s own, almost as if the couple’s dark curls are the physical embodiment of the idea that couples who have lived together for so long eventually begin to resemble their partner. More so, every ounce of dialogue between July and Linklater rings achingly true, every gesture (specifically, an incredibly hostile slurp of an oversize soda amid an incredibly tense exchange) so profoundly accurate, anyone who has ever loved another will find it difficult to keep her heart from racing. They make a perfect pair.
July’s adoration of crippling kitsch runs rampant throughout the entire 91 minutes. For example, Marshall (David Warshofsky), a 50-year-old man living in the Valley who Sophie takes interest in, states (in total deadpan) that he wears a gold chain around his neck because it tells certain kinds of women that he’s “ready to fuck.” Joe, an elderly repairman, is surrounded by so many tchotchkes, they seem to have personalities more dynamic than his own.
There is no such thing as coincidence in The Future. Every word spoken, every visual detail has an innate purpose, be it a repaired hair dryer or July’s habit of seeking solace in an oversize t-shirt. July’s mastery of detail is the key, because it’s all the tiny moments that make The Future so compelling.