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.
The Video and Audio
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.
An original theatrical trailer is also included.