Most of us have known characters like these. Some of us might actually be characters like these. Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), the meek, defeated-looking, thirtysomething protagonists of The Future, live in a drab, hastily arranged apartment somewhere in Los Angeles. They dress in thrift-store clothing and together achieve the waif-like appearance of sensitive, abandoned children.
In a TV sitcom, their transparently uneventful lives would be filled with snappy repartee supplied by their zany neighbors. In an indie horror movie, the apartment would probably be haunted by the spirit of a departed serial killer. In a big-budget political thriller they’d turn up dead in the third reel, done in by sinister corporate operatives. In practically any other type of film Sophie and Jason would be wallpaper, ghostly anonymous figures filling the near background. Stereotypically affectless, they could just as well be portrayed by sock puppets or drawn by Edward Gorey.
But The Future is written and directed by Ms. July, who made Me and You and Everyone We Know, and it reflects her performance-art tendencies as well as a slacker-absurdist point of view that’s the epitome of an acquired taste. Everything Sophie and Jason say sounds ridiculous, but in an arguably amusing, cartoon-balloon-dialogue way. In the press notes July describes them as “strange the way all couples are strange when they’re alone.” Sophie and Jason are written that way to put us in a certain frame of mind. The film’s main weakness is that that fragile frame doesn’t always hold.
She teaches movement to kids at a pre-school; he goes door-to-door for a nonprofit devoted to trees. The central event in their lives is the anticipated arrival of Paw Paw, a terminally ill cat that Sophie and Jason have pledged to care for. In order to clear the decks for Paw Paw, they quit their day jobs and devote themselves to acknowledging the passage of time.
Sophie intends to perform a routine for YouTube entitled “30 Days, 30 Dances,” but she has trouble getting started. Jason wanders the city and befriends a lonely, eccentric senior named Joe (Joe Putterlik). Sophie forms an unlikely attachment to a suburban man named Marshall (David Warshofsky) and his young daughter Gaby (Isabella Acres). Omniscient narrator Paw Paw the cat talks to us in a tiny, cracked voice (it’s July’s). Instead of Mumblecore, it’s Meowcore. There’s a crawling T-shirt. Time passes before the characters’ eyes. We could call The Future garage-Proustian, or we could think of it as the Thumbsuckers’ Guide to the Universe. But somehow we understand that Sophie and Jason — if not necessarily Paw Paw — are going to be all right.