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As Paw Paw: They came back, and they petted me, and I accidentally made the sound that means, I am cat, which is belonging to you. And upon making the sound, I felt it to be true. It was a warm type of feeling that would have been unwise to have outside at night, but it suddenly seemed that I would not be outside at night ever again.
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Controversial The Future is a 2011 film that tells the story of an eccentric couple in their mid 30s who lives in a Los Angeles tiny and bohemian flat. Narrated by Paw-Paw, the injured stray kitten that they have adopted, the film tells how Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater)'s lives change dramatically during the month that they have to wait for taking the cat home. Its initial naiveté ends up being blurred by the shadows provoked by the protagonists' decision to break with their daily routine to fight for their own dreams as if they have been told they have only four weeks to live. Soon the adventure is over and in their blind and desperate search of their paths their steps grow more and more away.
Heartbreaking, absurd, surrealistic, twee and bizarre at the same time, The Future is a piece of independent cinema that cannot be overlooked just because of the presence of disturbing elements such as the talking cat (whose high-pitched, childish voice rumbling in the dark is a powerful beginning by the way). Miranda July, director, writer and star of the film, is not just "being weird for the sake of being weird", but uses fantastic and bizarre images and situations to talk about our biggest taboos: the frailty of love, the futility of dreams, the anxiety about the passage of time and the fear of death.
With their scruffy curls and their apathetic attitude towards life, Sophie and Jason seem to be the perfect couple. By seeing them lied down on the couch with their feet entangled, the spectator realizes that they felt really comfortable being together. The image of Jason peacefully sleeping over Sophie's chest (sweet for some, twee for others) is also a very faithful representation of true love, as well as Jason's attempt to stop time forever reflects very well how heartbreak feels. Miranda July said in an interview that she intended to describe: "the bittersweet vertigo of true love". Despite the audience does not doubt in the sincerity and profundity of the feelings of the couple, it is forced to see how circumstances and human weakness makes their love begin falling apart.
Firstly, to understand why they (as us ourselves) start panicking when the words "a 5 years commitment" are brought up, it is necessary to come back to the kitten wounded in her paw. Like Paw-Paw, who patiently waits for the couple to start his real life (she's even counting the days), we are always waiting for something good to happen, for the real beginning of our lives. And when we reach the thirties, we start to question ourselves if that beginning is not already gone, get depressed for having wasted the first half of our life and look at the future even more anxiously than before.
This is more or less what happens to Sophie and Jason, whom the idea of looking after a kitten -requiring a total care- for the next five years of their lives, make them think of their (scary) future: "We're 35 now ... by the time the cat dies, we'll be 40 ... and 40 might as well be 50 ... and after that, spare change." "Spare change?" "Less than a dollar-- not enough to get anything you want " Jason's words reflect our anxiety about the passage of time as we cannot help feeling frustrated when the years pass by without us having reached the milestones we set for ourselves. Nonetheless in the film July, who said of life "I rush through it, like I'm being chased", warns us about the dangers that this feeling of "being always late" (late to live?) provokes. The Future not only make us consider how useless is to be always projecting into when it's going to be "better", but also make us question the importance of our lifetime dreams. It kind of helps us to get rid of the endless frustration caused by the contrast between our high expectations and our day-to-day reality. Like Sophie and Jason, everyone suffers from the Cervantine conflict, that is to say, the conflict between the world as we have imagined it and the world as it is. The story of Sophie and Jason somehow questions the futility of dreams, often unattainable and absurd (remembering Jason's: "I always thought I'd be a world leader").
How is it possible we cannot live happily just because we have not achieved some pretentious (generally childish) life goals? The Future, although has not the answer to the question, teaches us to open our eyes to our own limitations and stop feeling as if we deserved something better in life so as to start really enjoying ours. Life is not about waiting things to happen, but making things happen, as July said in No One Belongs Here More Than You: "Don't wait to be sure. Move, move, move"
July says that she intended to describe "the bittersweet vertigo of true love". Here an intense fear (vertigo) is intimately linked to an intense love, as imagining spending a whole life with someone is scary because from the beginning everyone already knows how the story ends, one dying in the arms of the other. Hence marriage makes you inevitably realize your own mortality and finiteness.
Some optimism is hidden, nevertheless, behind the pessimistic tone of the film. No matter what happens we always have to remember the enigmatic words of Joe Putterlik played by Joe Putterlik himself, an eccentric old man who Miranda met in a street market. This old man who participated in the film shortly before dying, tell us with his example that until you are dead, never is too late to live. So remember: "This is just the beginning".
"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain"
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