Anyone who saw Anywhere USA -- a list that's probably less than five hundred people long -- likely took notice of young actor Perla Haney-Jardine. Most people will have seen her in Kill Bill Vol. 2 as Beatrix Kiddo's daughter, but she steals Anywhere away from an eclectic cast with a performance that conveys deeper and more complicated emotions in 20 minutes than many adult actors express in a whole movie. Following more B.B.-sized parts in Hollywood productions (Spider-Man 3, Untraceable), it's exciting to see her take on a lead role in director / writer Jenny Deller's debut Future Weather, but the results are underwhelming, saddling Haney-Jardine with a tiresome character designed to push an agenda on the audience.
13-year-old Lauduree (Haney-Jardine) is passionate about the environment. Outside the trailer home she shares with her reckless mother, Tanya (Marin Ireland), she's in the middle of cultivating trees, which will hopefully pull more carbon dioxide out of the air and slow the effects of global warming. Her plans collapse when Tanya moves to California overnight, leaving Lauduree alone. After a brief attempt to fend for herself, Lauduree is forced to move in with her grandmother, Greta (Amy Madigan), whose plans to move to Florida with her long-time boyfriend Ed (William Sadler) would mean leaving her experiments behind. Surrounded by people moving in their own directions while trying to cope with the heartbreak of being abandoned by her mother, Lauduree starts to act out, angrily pushing back against those around her.
Deller helped finance the film with grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which supports entertainment that includes and increases awareness of real-life scientific issues, but large parts of Future Weather are blatantly and pointedly designed to express what I must assume are Deller's own feelings about global warming and the environment. There's nothing wrong with being passionate about a cause, and environmental issues rank pretty high among concerns for the future, but it's always awkward when a film stuffs its real-life messages down the viewer's throat. Worse, Deller hints at but doesn't definitively clarify whether or not Lauduree's passion about the issue is meant to be a little obnoxious. Instead, a scene where Lauduree starts yelling at people in the street for driving cars and buying bottled water exists in a weird middle ground that will likely emotionally paralyze viewers.
Haney-Jardine grew up quite a bit between Anywhere USA and Future Weather, so it's hard to tell whether her performance here is more one-note thanks to the script (in which Lauduree is angry most of the time), or if her abilities are changing with her age, but the way she handles the complicated blend of love and heartbreak in scenes she shares with Ireland and Madigan suggest it's the former. The more successful parts of the film focus on fractured relationships between Lauduree and Tanya, Tanya and Greta, and Greta and Lauduree. Simple moments between Madigan and Haney-Jardine set in Greta's kitchen are both moving (a sleepwalking scene), and heartbreaking (Greta callously and casually confesses something about Tanya). The supporting cast is rounded out by Lili Taylor as one of Lauduree's teachers, and Anubhav Jain as a classmate with a crush on Lauduree. Taylor's mostly around to be warm and set up some exposition scenes, while Jain is funny in a thread that feels a little clunky in execution.
Future Weather is a film caught between a rock and a hard place. Were Deller to commit more to the family drama material, the film would probably work better but feel more familiar, one of many domestic dramas about the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters. At the same time, pushing the environmental angle weighs the film down politically, turning every scene in which Lauduree tends to her plants into a Statement About the World. The characters in Future Weather emphasize that even a first step can do a great deal for the environment, and in turn it's best to hope that the film simply represents a step in what will prove to be long and fruitful careers for both lead actor and director.
Future Weather arrives with slightly misleading artwork that suggests a storm on the horizon, and features a strip of photos of the movie's cast members. Still, the color palette is nice. The disc comes in a standard, cheap Blu-Ray case, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Vigil Films saddles Future Weather with one of the worst-looking DVD transfers I've seen in awhile. This 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is really ruined by banding from beginning to end, a common problem with digital productions (this was shot on the RED One). It's only exacerbated by poor contrast control, which creates tons of crush on clothes, hair, and walls. In one night shot of Greta smoking outside the trailer, artifacts freeze in an ugly pattern across the pitch-black parts of the image. During the daytime, the picture is generally fine, but so much of the movie is in lower light that there's no escaping the ugly look of this DVD.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 track fares a little better. So much of the movie takes place out in lively forests and fields, filled with frogs and crickets, which allows for a nice enveloping sense of nature. Other than that, the disc delivers dialogue and music quite nicely, if not in any particularly memorable way. Closed captioning is provided for those with televisions that support the function, although they displayed on my TV with some of the letters cut off.
Two deleted scenes (2:21, 1:27) are included. It is strange that both of these scenes were deleted, as both show Lauduree softening, which the finished film sorely lacks. A short film titled "Save the Future" (3:08) is the only other extra. This follows a somewhat similar plot as the film, about a young girl (Haney-Jardine) who is interested in the environment and is abandoned by a distant mother (a prostitute), but the short seems to focus more on the child's need for a parent rather than the environment.
An original theatrical trailer is also included.
Although it's heavy-handed and only partially successful (and the transfer is extremely underwhelming), the areas where Future Weather does shine are enough to justify a rental.
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