It’s fairly common that as you grow older, you experience moments where you take stock of the direction your life is headed. Generally you reflect on your own mortality, to decide whether you’re on track to accomplish your lifelong aspirations. For Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), a couple in their mid-30s, the opportunity to assess their lives, arises when they explore the concept of adopting a cat, in writer/director Miranda July’s drama “The Future.”
Part of this story is told through the narration of this cat, which we come to know as Paw-Paw (voiced by July). As Paw-Paw explains, when she was injured, Sophie and Jason rescued her. Even though they learn from the vet that Paw-Paw may only have a few months left to live, due to her illness, the couple offers to adopt her.
Initially Sophie and Jason are thrilled by the concept because it provides them with similar duties to caring for a child, without as much commitment. Furthermore, the fact that vet first estimates the cat will live a few months, means that they will not permanently be saddled with responsibility for it.
When the couple goes to claim Paw-Paw though, they learn that she still needs a month of recovery before they can take her. In one way this is slightly relieving for them because it means one more month of freedom; although their reprieve is dispelled by the other news they receive that Paw-Paw could go on to live for years with the right care. Armed with that information, Sophie and Jason slink home, letting the impact of that revelation settle.
As they start to realize they could be investing years of commitment, suddenly adoption seems much less attractive since they could be sacrificing time to care for Paw-Paw. Sophie and Jason’s aspirations drop instantly into perspective, as they cope with the idea that neither of them have been living to their true potential.
Since they have put their dreams aside already for financial security, having a cat is frightening because it means they could be out of time to do what they want in life. With Paw-Paw’s impending arrival one month away, they make a drastic decision: Sophie and Jason quit their jobs to spend 30 days living every day to its fullest. The journey that follows will alter the course of time, as well as test their faith in themselves and in each other.
Watching “The Future” it’s clear that this is a very personal film for Miranda July, which comes through because the core story is based on performance art that she has done, but also since she is in her late 30s, she understands what it is like to grapple with this same quandary about her life direction. From an acting perspective, the fact that she has occupied the skin of her character already as a performance artist makes her portrayal of Sophie very convincing.
At first, abstract elements in the film used to tell the story, like Paw-Paw’s narration and its gesturing with its paws are a bit unsettling because of the tone of the cat’s voice and the bizarreness of the cat moving its paws around. However, once you move past the initial shock, you start to understand that the cat functions as a means to help explain Sophie and Jason’s strife, as it conveys the basic desire of all living things which is to be loved. Even though it barely knows Sophie and Jason, Paw-Paw cares for them and longs for the day that it will be with them, and while it also fears its own mortality, it’s comforted by the idea of having others to pass the time with.
My Grade: A