Its trailer would have you think The Future is one of those “quirky” movies, the kind that makes a big deal out of its characters’ little insecurities as they search for (or delay) the beginning of their real lives amid post-college doldrums. But this comes from writer/director/actress Miranda July, who stands head and shoulders above the average college graduate’s age and experience; the film covers similar themes, but actively re-examines the state of mind many films simply report on.
Here’s what I mean: the jokes and quirky moments highlighted in its advertising are never straight punch lines in the actual film; the lines that act as dry comedy are also touching reminders of the characters’ slightly bewildered natures—they are certainly adrift in time, “gearing up to do something really incredible for the past… 15 years”, but I also get the sense that the film is looking at them with the perspective of a wise owl, considering the actual implications of what trying to figure out “the rest of our lives” at 35 means (that same “What am I going to do?” question serves as a rhetorical one for most of the indie subsection). At some point, a straight comedy film would also let go and allow its characters to simply be as they are, but this one keeps steadily pursuing its pair straight to the end, allowing no leeway for the plot to slip away and suddenly make everything all right.
That’s not to say that this is a sad film, but it’s not an easy one either. But, really, it can’t be put down as being one type of film at all, or recommended for any one kind of audience (just for the record, that means it’ll be labeled as Drama). Without genre conventions, then, I would describe it as a meditation on the nature of time, depicted not in literal long-duration shots but getting at the way you can check the clock and realize that you’ve spent the last two hours on YouTube, or missed the evening’s potentials in front of the TV, or lost track of the 30-day goals you set for yourself. That makes it sound sad again, but it’s only sad in the way some moments are funny—as naturally resulting characteristics of its keen observation.
As part of its apparent lack of genre, it doesn’t really summon one response or call for the audience to feel one emotion and come to a pre-defined conclusion. This doesn’t necessarily make it better than other films that do their jobs as, say, Comedy or Horror, but it is a part of what makes this film great.
But, you may appreciate more about what The Future is, rather than my rhapsodizing about what it turned out not to be… in that case, it’s about two people who have suddenly found themselves on the threshold of the rest of their lives: on the brink of a wave which will carry them one way or another, but no longer everywhere and anywhere. Perhaps, when you leaven a prospect that appears bitter with the realization that such is life, and what do you really have to be bitter about?, you approach a wistfulness, a gently sad awareness; mono no aware. The film mostly does this with simple, everyday situations (aside from a thought/concept puzzle near the end that’s easy enough to understand), and yet perceives deeply, wisely into the heart of a certain human state that everyone knows from one time or another (college students, particularly, live through it—to be not at the beginning, but at the middle of the beginning). And there are a few relationship insights and other things to find besides all this…on second thought, I almost don’t blame the marketing department for passing it off as another quirky indie.