Centered around a quietly spectacular performance by young Perla Haney-Jardine, “Future Weather” integrates a green message into a striking and emotional drama about intergenerational female conflict. As the awkwardly named, 13-year-old eco-savant Lauduree, Haney-Jardine is pure grace, to the point where her character seems to have landed in her trashy family from another planet, a notion underscored by a crusty, chain-smoking Amy Madigan, who makes the girl’s grandmother one formidable force of nature. Pic should flourish within its domestic-indie niche.
A Lipstick Pictures presentation. Produced by Jenny Deller, Kristin Fairweather. Executive producers, Jennifer Dubin, Cora Olson.
Abandoned by her lanky, leggy disgrace of a mother, Tanya (Marin Ireland), who heads to Hollywood to become a makeup artist, Lauduree (Haney-Jardine), aka Ray, is left to her own devices and interests. These include an independent experiment in carbon sequestration — figuring out which trees consume the most carbon dioxide and therefore should be planted en masse to help reverse global warming.
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The science is fine, but the central weakness of writer-director Jenny Deller’s script is the incongruity between Ray and her mother — and indeed, between Ray and everyone else in her small Illinois burg (the pic was shot outside Philadelphia). That this girl sprang from a family so burdened by demons, drink, domestic discord and, critically, a lack of education reps a rather incredible circumstance. Nowhere is this disconnect more apparent than in the contrast between Ray and Greta (Madigan), the grandmother who takes custody of her.
Greta is planning to move to Florida with her boyfriend, Ed (an uncharacteristically gentle William Sadler), and take Ray along. Ray balks, and continues to spend most of her time reading and worrying about the health of the environment, the survival of species and the dangers of disposable plastic water bottles. Deller won a grant for “Future Weather” from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which supports the promotion of the sciences through popular entertainment, and one can certainly see why.
Ray is the best student in her class, and shares an affectionate relationship with her teacher, Ms. Markovi (a fine Lili Taylor) who fosters her interest in science and even hosts an afterschool science club, one attended only by Ray and Neel (Anubhav Jain), a new kid whom Ray has saved from bullies. Neel is clearly interested in the smart girl, who wants nothing to do with him at first, but eventually warms to him platonically, and involves him in her ongoing experiments. “Do you think I’m attractive?” she asks Neel, scientifically. You can almost hear him gulp.
The dialogue, when not shoehorning the eco-message into the mix, is occasionally brilliant; an exchange between Greta and Ray, while the latter is sleepwalking (an interesting if not fully explored insight into Ray’s psyche), is a tour de force. Many of the pic’s quieter moments reveal Deller as a filmmaker possessed of uncanny confidence, such as a scene in which Ray explores her mother’s old bedroom and takes a journey into her own genetic legacy. And there’s one confrontation between Greta and her prodigal daughter, Tanya, whom the fearsome older woman approaches with menace, cigarette dangling from her lips. One can almost hear the theme from “Jaws.”
Tech credits are tops, the sound and music choices particularly on point.