There is an old adage that says, “Matters of great importance should be handled lightly.” I’d be willing to believe that Miranda July lives by that. Her new feature film, only her second, abounds in heady themes, yet she exerts a very delicate touch. She doesn’t let the material weigh down the film. It is actually quite amazing. For those that are a fan of Me and You and Everyone We Know, I’d say that this is an even better, more sure-handed film. For those that are not a fan of her earlier work, I’d implore you to give this film a chance. If the crowd at the Independent Film Festival Boston is to be believed, this may be the sleeper hit of the summer. It is certainly unlike any other film you will see in a theater this summer.
The film stars July and Hamish Linklater as a couple of bohemian slackers in Los Angeles who seem to avoid all responsibility and/or movement, lest it get in the way of all the wonderful things they plan to do if they could ever get off the couch. July is a dancer who gets stuck every time she starts to dance; it’s as if the weight of decisions renders her immobile. Meanwhile, Linklater is looking for a sign to point him towards his purpose in life, having not found one on his own. Together they decide to adopt a sick cat, of which the responsibility of caring for it is seen as an end to their youth and their freedom. Since the cat isn’t well enough for them to take home, they plan to spend their remaining month living life to its fullest. Did I mention that the cat- voiced by July- provides the narration?
The Future seems to exist in a somewhat dreamlike state; from July being stalked by her favorite shirt, to Linklater stopping time, the movie feels as if it is stuck somewhere between reality and a dream, with July and Linklater sleepwalking towards maturity. These characters are in a perpetual fugue state, which eventually begins to affect their relationships, both to each other and to the world around them.
July must have quite a lot on her mind. Just to give a quick run-through of some of these themes: the film deals with the future, the past, life, death, forgiveness, movement, fate, chance, time, responsibility, loneliness, relationships, decisions, the apocalypse, and many others. Though the themes may be somewhat heavy, the film is anything but. July, as writer and director, handles them with a light touch, allowing humor and ambiguity to come through. Most other films with such weighty ambitions can turn into an existential dirge, but this film seems to float on air.
This is a movie that defies characterization. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? A surrealist romance? There are scenes that evoke the mumblecore movement, and others that evoke David Lynch. Time skips around when it isn’t stopped altogether. There is a sublime sort of magic happening; whether it is July watching her life fast-forward in front of her, or Linklater wandering through a frozen L.A., or two gesticulating paws talking about the hardship of waiting. To go into any more detail would perhaps spoil the surprise of experiencing the film as it goes.
With just two feature length films to her name, July has shown that she has a gift for creating superbly original art that exists on its own level, but is easily enjoyed by almost all. Having been six years since her last feature length film, I hope she doesn’t take quite as long to make her next one. Though, if her next film is anywhere near as good as this one, it would be well worth the wait.