No Future REVIEW – A Desolate Picture | Tribeca 2021

Is a bleak outcome inevitable when dealing with addiction?

No Future

With a title like No Future, you go into the film expecting a grim end result, and that’s pretty much what we get. Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot’s film revolves around the topic of addiction, and the difficulties encountered in maintaining a sense of normalcy in the face of it. Charlie Heaton plays Will, a recovering drug addict who has been sober for a while.

He has a good job, a nice place of his own, as well as a committed girlfriend in Becca (Rosa Salazar). Everything seems to be going great for him, but this is only on the surface, as no one besides Will himself is privy to his day-to-day struggles; even his support group doesn’t always get a sense of the full picture. He worries that the ugliness of it will scare Becca away, so chooses to compartmentalise in the hopes that he would eventually build up the courage to properly let her into his life.

Will then receives a visit from Chris (Jefferson White), an old friend who was just released from prison and is having a much harder time of it compared to Will. The entire visit discomforts Will, and he cannot bring himself to bridge the distance between them, wanting to push away all things and people associated with that past life. This act of self protection becomes infused with guilt when he learns of Chris’ suicide and death after their conversation. Was their conversation the catalyst that pushed Chris into taking his own life? Will doesn’t know, but the guilt is suffocating, and in an effort to alleviate it, he responds when Chris’ mother Claire (Catherine Keener) reaches out to him.

Claire is dealing with guilt of her own, since she was just a few feet away behind a shut door when Chris took his own life. Irvine and Smoot’s film does really well in exploring the dynamics between the addict and their family members. These family members are so used to the lies and deception that all their minds can leap to when they sense something amiss is that it means the individual is using again.

Claire interrogates Chris the moment he gets in, immediately looking for signs of sustenance abuse, and Philip (Jackie Earle Haley), Will’s father, does the same when his son visits him out of the blue for help. All they see is the addiction, and these recovering addicts also view themselves in relation to these compulsions that dance around in their heads like ghosts.

Both Will and Claire are looking to escape the pain of Chris’ death, so they seek respite in each other. The older woman/younger man dynamic is sometimes difficult to pull off, especially when Claire sees herself as a kind of surrogate mother to Will after his own mother passed away. Heaton and Keener do well in their roles, so the relationship between Will and Claire feels natural and expected. Salazar and Haley also do outstanding work, especially Salazar, who breathes life into her underwritten character.

Will is able to unburden himself somewhat with Claire, in a way that he is unable to with Becca. For Claire, Will is the only one who knew Chris like she did, and in some ways, she is using Will to replace the son she lost. It’s complicated and the furthest thing from a healthy relationship, but grief can be quite messy, with people indulging in behaviour that would allow them to escape their realities for a little while.

The film’s pacing is bit slow and the colours are washed out to reflect its stark themes, so the dreary atmosphere can feel a bit much at times. But hey, I was invested all the way until the end, to see the consequence of these events on Will’s sobriety, and the aftermath of the Will/Claire relationship. I wish the narrative could have been a little less bleak, however, I understand the message Irvine and Smoot wanted to convey, and the pathos of it all.

Review screener provided.

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No Future is utterly devastating in the realities that it charts, and while the script feels a bit simplistic at times, the actors do great work in elevating the material.