Miranda July’s newest film venture, a beautiful and personal feature called The Future, maintains the same conversational explicitness, sexuality, strangeness, and intense intimacy characteristic of her first film, Me and You and Everyone We Know. July writes in a familiar tone to engage the audience in an extremely candid way. The Future develops through these same kinds of communication: jokes, small talk, moments of physical intimacy or connection.
July compliments this conversational tone with a symbolic level of communication in The Future, which she says pulls from her performance upon which the film is based. At a roundtable discussion in which I participated last week, July discussed the importance of symbols in understanding meaning: big things often “aren’t based in tangible reality,” so July says her characters use metaphors or symbols to approach such big ideas. July and her co-star, Hamish Linklater, portray this anxiety with careful intensity, often holding onto small symbols like life rafts until the last possible moment. Linklater’s character indulges genuinely in this clinging, while July’s character forces herself to not cling (down to the details: she even disconnects from the internet). July described her own character, who portrays a strange yet familiar combination of selfishness and self-destructiveness, as “representing the qualities in myself of which I am most afraid.”
The film’s structuring is brilliant, because it establishes an endearing home environment and then allows the characters (especially July’s) to run wild and destroy it; this wildness, July said, “is the part of yourself that doesn’t really believe that you could be loved.” The only sex scene contains everything that can be worst about sex—guilt, discomfort, obscenity—which perverts domestic traditions of love. After the characters have gone “wild,” as explained by the feline narrator (yeah), another character proposes an innocent question. It sounds so out of place when it’s asked, because it’s reminiscent of everything that was beautiful at the start of the film: “Do you believe in soulmates?”
Not to beat this point into the ground, but watching The Future was like watching your own future. July’s interest in the human experience, built around psychological constructs of symbols and expectations, choices and consequences, is personal and intimate. Because of its interest in the disillusion of common social and domestic constructs, The Future challenges audiences to address their own understandings of such structures, and also consider adopting a stray cat.
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The quotes in this article were taken from a roundtable discussion with Miranda July at which Bostonian on Film was lucky to be present. The discussion was collaborative and we would like to specifically acknowledge Printer's Devil Review and MIT's The Tech for their contributions.