Monday, December 11, 2023

Movie Review (Tribeca Festival): ‘No Future’ is a ludicrous downer about addiction and grief

Director: Andrew Irvine, Mark Smoot
Writers: Mark Smoot
Stars: Catherine Keener, Charlie Heaton, Rosa Salazar, Jackie Earle Haley, Austin Amelio, Jefferson White

Synopsis: After the overdose of his estranged friend, Will, a recovering addict, returns home and begins a secret and volatile affair with Claire, his friend’s grieving mother.


Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot continue with their directorial pairing with No Future, a film that focuses on loss, forgiveness, and resilience. The fact that these issues are tackled from a pessimistic perspective slowly proves that this is a depressing and challenging offer; its title is fitting for the bummer of a story that we witness for 80 minutes. In the film, written by codirector Smoot, not even our protagonist – the most naively optimistic character of the film – avoids the trappings of his own past.

Will (Charlie Heaton) is a recovering addict that is starting to see life in a positive way. During his latest support group meeting, he mentions that he met Becca (Rosa Salazar), a woman that makes him see the purpose of life. He is ready to move on, clinging to the girl as his most important (and only) ally. When he gets home, his former best friend Chris (Jefferson White) is waiting for him, bringing back all the things that Will is trying to leave behind.

While Will has found the strength to mend his path, Chris has been struggling, just coming out of jail and aching for the past when the two of them made music and reveled on their addiction together. Will has moved on and is not willing to entertain those thoughts, or even help him in any way. In a despaired move, Chris kills himself. This tragic event brings Will and Claire (Catherine Keener), Chris’s mother, together.

It is a shame that the most interesting things happen in the first five minutes of the film. Unfortunately, the best character is quickly out of the picture, and we are left to explore Will and Claire’s story instead. Chris brings to mind memories of Oslo, 31. august (2011) and Ander’s (Anders Danielsen Lie) hopeless reckoning with life and his future. Chris’s despair and fear are painful and recognizable. He is clinging to the past, and he does not seem to have too many options to resume his life. Unfortunately, he only inspires the conflict, and we are left instead with more sadness and mourning on others that inspire no empathy or interest.

The tone and essence of the film is heavy. This, joined by defeated performances, a helpless story, and a sullen score by Jon Natchez, weigh heavily. It is hard to connect with a film that is such a miserable experience. The fact that both Claire and Will make senseless and ridiculous decisions inspired by their pain only makes everything harder.

Will starts acting weird and alienating his girlfriend, the very same woman that was the reason for him to continue living (deeply troubling expectations). When he goes to Chris’s funeral, he reconnects with Claire, someone that has always been around as the mother of his best friend. This image is quickly corrupted when they start an unexpected and awkward affair. This creative decision feels forced and messy. Something that is written in the script for the actors to do, not something that the characters in such circumstances would do.

From this moment on, Will and Claire develop an undefinable relationship. They do not share anything other than pain, and when they are apart, they destroy their own lives. Still, this affair is nonconsequential. It is hard to develop interest for characters that are not profoundly developed, their arguments based on resentment and despair. In this regard, Smoot’s script is simplistic and full of shortcuts on topics such as addiction and complicity.

The failures of the film are painful when we consider the cast at its service, including Keener and Jackie Earle Haley. Charlie Heaton appears in his meatiest role since Stranger Things, bouncing off his gloomy and existential presence in the Netflix show. Unfortunately, Heaton and Keener do not share chemistry, making it more uncomfortable when Heaton tries to embrace that role of possible love interest.

No Future is a deeply gloomy and unempathetic story of loss and sadness. While it has an intriguing cast, it inspires an uncomfortable feeling of defeat. Smoot and Irvine intend to reflect on the difficulty of moving on, and while they offer an optimistic perspective at the beginning of the film, they make sure that by the end this foolish idea is completely obliterated.

Grade: C

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