For some reason it’s difficult to believe that The Future is only Miranda July’s second feature, and that it’s been six years since her previous one, Me and You and Everyone We Know. That film gathered huge success on the festival circuit and among indie film audiences with its particular brand of twee quirkiness – a quirkiness that fits in with the Sundance crowd but rings a little truer, a little deeper. She’s been busy with short films, performance art, short stories, and spoken word recordings in between, and even though I haven’t seen or heard a whole lot of that work, you can feel it in this film. It feels like an organic outgrowth of July as a writer and performer; not like a long-overdue follow-up to a successful film but merely the way this particular story needed to express itself, so she made a film rather than a book or a performance piece. Because though it would be easy for naysayers to dismiss July as merely quirky, she’s tapping into some very real and meaningful places in the lives of the now thirty-something middle-class artistic-minded people she writes about and to some degree represents.
The Future begins with a narrative framing device that’s likely to offput many – it was my least favorite part of the film, though I did like much of the actual narration as written. The narrator is a cat, voiced by July in the most gratingly annoying voice she could come up with and visually represented by a pair of paws. Paw-Paw is a stray cat that July’s actual character Sophie and her boyfriend Jason rescued and are planning to adopt when he’s out of quarantine at the vet’s. But Sophie and Jason aren’t sure they’re ready for the responsibility and decide they need to do everything they always wanted to do in the thirty days before they go to pick Paw-Paw up. On the surface, it seems like a fairly silly plot, but July is deep in metaphor in this film (and will get deeper), using Paw-Paw as a catalyst to energize Sophie and Jason out of their complacency in decent but unfulfilling jobs with the realization that they’re getting into their thirties and haven’t really even started to do the things they’d always planned to to in the future.