By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
A title like “The Future” could suggest a given film about a number of different things. To some, the title could signify something in the realm of science fiction. To others, the words ‘the future’ may be in reference to an individual’s goals for a family or for their career. In Noam Kaplan’s The Future, a drama premiering at this year’s Tribeca Festival, the title refers to all of the above. It’s an ambitious approach for a film clocking in at under 80 minutes and, unfortunately, one that doesn’t pay off.
The Future is set in Israel, in a version of the world in which terrorism is a thing of the past. That’s because Dr. Bloch (played by Reymonde Amsellem) has developed an algorithm that can predict acts of terrorism. The algorithm unexpectedly fails, however, as a young Palestinian woman named Yafa (Samar Qupty) assassinates the Israeli minister of Space and Tourism. In an effort to debug her algorithm, Dr. Bloch organizes a series of interviews with the assassin, conversations with deep philosophical and political implications.
The premise of The Future obviously harkens back to Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, except, in The Future, the predictive power of upcoming events is more of a contextual background than an integral plot device. Whereas Minority Report intelligently explored themes aligned with the free will-determinism debate, The Future is far less interested in examining the interesting philosophical implications of Dr. Bloch’s algorithm. Emphasizing this unusual decision is for the film to introduce the idea of Dr. Bloch’s algorithm nearly half an hour through the film and present it in an anti-climatic manner that downplays its importance.
The Future spends just as much time expanding upon its interesting premise as it does getting muddled with less interesting plot threads and backdrops. During the course of the film, characters repeatedly reference Israel’s first moon landing, although why this is so prominently referenced never becomes clear.
Perhaps more damning is the film’s focus on the theme of motherhood, as conveyed primarily through the relationship between Dr. Bloch and a young surrogate mother candidate for Bloch named Maor (played by Dar Zuzovsky). As the film decides to relegate its Minority Report influences to the background, it affords an opportunity to examine motherhood more intricately. Dr. Bloch is seen consulting with Maor throughout the film, exercising with her, and even welcoming her into her home. Meanwhile, Dr. Bloch’s relationship with her own mother is given attention as Bloch celebrates her mother’s birthday and reflects upon this with the interrogated woman Yafa at one point. Yafa and the relationship with her motherhood also features quite heavily as Yafa wishes to speak with her mother after the act of terrorism. Unfortunately, despite such significant attention allocated toward motherhood and related themes, it ultimately comes across as unfocused as the film juggles lots of lofty ideas, but never settles down to give them the depth of detail they deserve.
Also surprisingly downplayed is the Israel-Palestine conflict at the heart of this film. The film begins with Yafa recreating her assassination of the Israeli minister, which immediately places Dr. Bloch and Yafa on seemingly opposing sides of the conflict when the interview sessions begin. In another unusual turn, director Kaplan misses on the opportunity to examine the intersection of Dr. Bloch’s algorithm and the Israel-Palestine conflict. There’s a number of interesting ontological questions that this intersection generates. Is the algorithm biased? Is it ethical? What does it mean that the algorithm is the possession of the Israeli government and seemingly not the Palestinians? Does it predict acts of terrorism or merely the motives of a people oppressed by an overarching government? Again, the ideas at The Future’s disposal are extremely intriguing, but how they are addressed leaves quite a bit to be desired.
Between the jumbled focus on the algorithm, motherhood, the moon landing, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and other superfluous plot elements, The Future loses momentum somewhere in its second or third act. And, before the audience can really grasp what is so unsettling about the film, it abruptly concludes. In turn, The Future feels more like the pilot of a 10-episode series than it does a full length feature film.
More positively, the film features two strong performances from the opposing female characters. Reymonde Ansellem as Dr. Bloch brings a calm and collected composure to her interviews with Yafa, while conveying a unique vulnerability outside of the interview room. Samar Qupty as Yafa, meanwhile, makes for a compelling character to initially and naturally root against, but portrays her character with a surprising empathy and emotional depth.
The Future is a concoction of philosophically and politically interesting questions and themes about free will, determinism, and motherhood that fails to capitalize on its number of promising elements. Although the film features two strong lead performances and establishes a level of intrigue in its first act, its clear Minority Report influences are unusually relegated to an afterthought in favor of various meandering conversations. At just under 80 minutes in runtime, The Future ambitiously takes on more than it can chew. Perhaps as the pilot of a television show, this would have proven more effective in that the audience would be introduced to questions and themes that would inevitably be explored in greater depth in subsequent episodes. Unfortunately, though, this is a feature film and not a television series pilot and, as such, Kaplan’s film is more ambitious than it is successful.