Coming-of-age stories have been around quite possibly as long as folks have been coming-of-age. The beauty of most of them is that they embrace that universal experience – that fragile emotional precipice bordering both childhood and adulthood – so they tend to translate fairly well from one culture to the next. Because they are interchangeable across countries, they need to offer up something unique in order to stand out from the crop, and, as hard as THE FUTURE (aka IL FUTURO) tries, I’m not sure it succeeds in the precise way director Alicia Scherson intended: it has pretty wide critical acclaim, though I suspect most regular folks in the audience might find themselves scratching their heads over what all of it meant.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Bianca (played sublimely by the lovely Manuela Martelli) and Tomas (Luigi Ciardo) find themselves orphaned after their parents perish in an automobile accident. Because Bianca is of adult age, the two siblings are allowed to remain in their home so long as the elder girl agrees to serve as her brother’s guardian, which she does. As the two begin their new journey through life, Bianca abandons school in favor of a job while Tomas invites two of his male coworkers – personal trainers from a nearby gym – to live in their home with them. It isn’t long before the fitness freaks concoct a scheme for the young woman to bilk an aging muscleman-turned-actor, Maciste (played by screen veteran Rutger Hauer), out of his fortune by locating the whereabouts of his private safe so they can crack it.
To be perfectly clear, THE FUTURE is a very gradually simmering story. As some critics have pointed out, it’s certainly reminiscent of some of Alfred Hitchcock’s greater works, and director Alicia Scherson even mined that territory by approving a score which makes the visuals appear to be film noir. The truth is that there’s very little in the film that plays out like a Hitchcock thriller, but the association is valid despite a somewhat skewed ending.
What audiences have here once the actual story gets going – be warned: there’s an awful amount of set-up in order to get Martelli and Hauer even in the same room – is a classic performance piece. Think of it as an elaborately staged duet between the two leads, each commanding their respective screen charms that somehow sizzling despite what must be a 40+ year age difference (both in the story as well in real life). These two thespians hoist the picture up on to their shoulders and into the stratosphere, but, unfortunately, that chemistry doesn’t pay-off the way it should when they’re apart. Perhaps that’s because both characters are struggling to come-of-age – Bianca is approaching adulthood while Maciste is nearing his end of days – and it’s only when they’re together that they can find a measure of solace, a measure of happiness, a measure of sanity in a world that would definitely frown on their relationship.
Despite Martelli believing she loves the aging bodybuilder, I never found her confession all that authentic. Rather, her innocence makes her believe that their companionship is normal, and I suspect that’s why she fails to follow-thru on the mission to uncover the man’s private wealth. Instead, she finds a man whose semen she even sees a ‘golden’ – symbolic of the goodness buried deep inside his grizzled and gray exterior – and it is that impression that she falls head over heels for. Still, what she feels for him she feels deeply, and it’s that motivation that lifts what could be an otherwise faulty performance.
Sadly, the end result of this is that both characters ‘grow up’ of sorts, and that was the singular letdown. It’s a far too complicated story centered with two award-caliber performances to have such an ‘elementary’ lesson. I was hoping for something deep, but THE FUTURE stayed too often in the present for me to genuinely appreciate the past.
THE FUTURE (aka IL FUTURO)  is produced by a whole host of contributors, not the least of which include Movimento Film, Jirafa, Pandora Films, La Ventura, Astronauta Films, and many, many more (for a complete list, you can check out IMDB.com’s full listing). DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Strand Releasing. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a mixed-language spoken film with Spanish, Italian and English; you’ll need to make use of the subtitling track, but there is a significant portion of the film spoken in English. As for the technical specifications, this is a smartly assembled production with some terrific quality sights and sounds. As is often the case when these foreign releases land on American shores, there are (sadly) no special features to speak of.
RECOMMENDED. Despite all of the positives THE FUTURE has going for it, I found it ultimately a frustrating experience – adapted from a novel, it requires a vast amount of set-up before the actual conflict of the story rears its head, and – by then – I’d imagine most viewers would either have turned it off or completely tuned out. That said, once the conflict is known, the film actually shifts into a comfortable gear, but, in the final analysis, it ends up being little more than an artsy ‘coming-of-age’ film that quite possibly could’ve accomplished as much by offering up far, far less. Still, it’s a great performance duet with Hauer quite possibly nearing the end of his career while Martelli is just getting in the game. Their story works. The rest? Not so much.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Strand Releasing provided me with a DVD copy of THE FUTURE (aka IL FUTURO) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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