Future gets high points for selling a life-affirming drama under a sci-fi banner. Now all it needs is a more distinct name.
Let’s bitch it out…
In directors Rob Cousineau and Chris Rosik’s indie flick Future, Doug Erickson (Joshua P. Cousineau) is a depressed tea store barrista headed down a dead-end path. He’s distant and not at all attentive to his girlfriend/future ex Alma (Claire Sloma), his (unseen) parents openly mock him and he feels like no one wants him around. At the height of his depression, a disheveled bearded man in glasses and a beanie (Phreddy Wischusen) enters Doug’s life, announcing that he is a Time Traveler from the future. Flanked by somnabulist men in white masks and gloves, the Time Traveler is armed with a contract that Doug signs: in four days he will move on to a new form of (better) consciousness in exchange for murdering someone (for the sake of the world, of course).
You would be forgiven for thinking that this premise makes the film a sci-fi morality tale, but it’s actually much simpler – and more affecting – than that. In reality, Future is a life-affirming movie about making the most of your life. Doug’s interactions with the Time Traveler are comprised of a series of candid conversations wherein Doug reveals the insecurities and fears that have held him back from living his life to the max. The Time Traveler imbues on him cachets of wisdom, encouraging Doug to let go and pursue the things that will make him happy and satisfied.
Humourously, this frequently translates into the worst of decisions: engaging in criminal transactions on behalf of his old friend Kyle (Conor Sweeney), relapsing back into an alcoholic stupor and hitting on Anna (Laura Heikkinen), the baby sister of an ex girlfriend. Doug is a likeable character because he’s a bit of a disaster and it takes him a while to figure out how to improve his station in life, which in turn makes Future imminently watchable.
What’s fascinating about the film is that its sci-fi concept is both a guise as well as a pervasive undercurrent. The vast majority of the film is simply Doug making changes in his life, interjected by sporadic punctuations of rock-music scored title cards that count down from “Four Days” to “Murder Day.”
The omnipresence of the guards and the constant suggestion that the Time Traveler has Doug’s journals from the future visually reinforces the sci-fi tropes, but it’s easy to forget about the looming deadline and the inevitable murder that’s bookending the plot. The narrative seems deliberately constructed to encourage questions about whether the Time Traveler and the goons have set up an elaborate hoax to get Doug out of his depressive stupor. After all, it’s not as though there are spaceships or future forecasts to validate the Time Traveler’s claims.
The lack of certainty about whether the claims are real leaves Future in an interesting liminal space, even when the world-saving contractual murder stuff isn’t front and center. This lingering doubt adds a nice tension to an otherwise low-key film, which benefits from unassuming direction and relaxed, naturalistic performances. Both Cousineau – the actor – and Wischusen offer engaging, comedic personas that carry the first three quarters of the film before the sci-fi angle reasserts itself and the film’s tone changes. For my money the amusing “fix your life” premise plays stronger than the conspiracy elements and the open to interpretation ending may turn off viewers eager for a fixed resolution, but Future‘s low key approach to both sci-fi and drama is its strength.
In fact, my biggest issue with the film is that its name isn’t memorable or distinct enough; it is so generic that it seems doomed to get lost in the online clutter. Here’s hoping that Cousineau and Rosik have time to reconsider the title and rebrand so that audiences can more easily find this charming property before it leaves the festival circuit.
Future is playing at MidWest Weirdfest on Sunday, March 11.