Written and directed by Andrew Irvine & Mark Smoot
Starring Catherine Keener, Charlie Heaton, Rosa Salazar, Jackie Earl Haley
“Do you think people like us ever really change?” This is the lifelong question for people cursed with the disease of addiction.
In Andrew Irving and Mark Smoot’s new film “No Future”, we meet a man and a woman who come together in a time of pain and need.
Will is a recovering drug addict in serious struggle with his addictions. For the moment, his life is on an upswing. He has a nice house and a good relationship with Becca (Rosa Salazar, very good in an underwritten part), who he might ask to move in with him. She gives him the strength to overcome his demons.
One night, Chris (Jefferson White), Will’s friend from the bad old days, pays him a surprise visit. The two friends sit in the night and talk briefly of their past life when they had a band together. After a moment, Chris tells Will that he has lost hope with life. Chris is a felon with no prospects and a broken man who cannot control his own addictions.
It is in this brief scene where the screenplay speaks volumes of the two ways life can go for an addict. You can fight to overcome it or you can give up and let your demons win. Will chooses to press on and further his life for the good. Chris has given up. He sees only blackness. For him, there is nothing past today, so why continue to try?
Later that night, Chris overdoses. His death sends Will and Chris’ mother Claire on a journey of sadness, regret and crippling guilt.
To struggle with the demons of addiction is hard enough, but when grief comes into play, the struggle can become an all out battle for one’s soul.
Catherine Keener is Claire. We meet her during her son’s last few moments alive. She wonders why he took her car without asking and why he would not answer his phone. Understandably, she fears he was out buying drugs.
Keener has always been a reliable character actress. This role is gives her a chance to reach a depth that she has yet to explore. Claire is a woman in pain. She is hurting and lonely and in need of connection. Keener’s work here is soulful and free of any pretense. This could be Cathrine Keener her finest. Let us hope the Academy will remeber this great performance.
As Will, Charlie Heaton’s work is full of honesty and realism. A role like this could drown in brooding anguish in the hands of the wrong actor. Will is hurting because he turned Chris away the night he died. All his friend wanted (needed) was some encouraging and kind words but Chris made him go, as he didn’t want Becca to meet him.
Heaton is effortless in his portrayal of a man “walking the line” every minute of every day. His internal pain and desire to do the right thing and to be a good person comes through organically. Will does not always make good decisions and he knows it. He loves Becca and wants to be a man she can love back.
Will and Claire process their guilt and sadness in different ways. They together out of a misguided desire for human connection with someone who understands their pain. The two share the devastating loss of Chris. Once their intimacy turns sexual, they believe are healing one another. to the contrary, Claire and Will become even more lost in their guilt.
Irvine and Smoot are restrained in their direction and measured in their writing of Will and Claire. The filmmaker’s find a subtle potency in these two damaged souls. The anguish of people affected by addiction is heartbreaking, as it is not only the addicts who are in pain. Families are destroyed.
We see this in the character of Will’s father, Phillip, played expertly by Jackie Earle Haley. He has nothing much to say to his son anymore. Will’s mother died of cancer while he was spiraling into his drug problem. Will is tainted for him now. He cannot trust him. Phillip lost both a wife and a son. Haley wears his heartbreak on his face in his small but beautiful performance.
The characters in this film need companionship, but not one of them can fully love anymore without some form of guilt attached.
While the screenplay is grounded in truth, there is a manipulative moment that comes toward the finale that does not ring true and feels too forced. I would never reveal what happens, but it unfortunately turns honesty into melodrama and betrays certain characters by their actions, but only for a moment.
The scene is certainly a pothole in the film but does not erase the power of the piece entire. The complete narrative is much too strong.
Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot do not pretend to have all the answers. That would be taking the easy way out. There is no final catharsis so the audience can leave feeling good about themselves. This is a drama of people who want their pain understood and who walk in a cloud of discarded emotion.
Guided by a haunting score from John Natchez and grounded by the performances of Keener, Heaton, and Haley, “No Future” is a film that will move you. It will break your heart. This one will stay with you for a very long time.
NR, 89 Minutes, Gravitas Ventures, Ten Acre Films, Terraform Films