×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Future Perfect’

A Chinese immigrant in Argentina shifts from present to future perfect in both language and outlook in this charming, humorous debut.

With:
Zhang Xiaobin, Saroj Malik, Jiang Mian, Wang Dong Xi, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart. (Spanish, Mandarin dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6060960/

A sixty-five minute film is always a difficult commodity to place, yet “The Future Perfect” is such an unpretentious delight that it would be a shame to relegate it to specialty streaming sites or obscure sections at festivals. By replicating the quasi-stilted dialogue and stiffness of language classes, which Wohlatz has spill out of the classroom and into daily conversation, the film disarmingly grants deeper life to the immigrant experience than what’s usually seen in much more dramatic affairs. Very few audiences won’t be charmed by Nele Wohlatz’s creatively original take on a Chinese teen immigrant in Argentina, and Locarno’s prize for best first feature should help break down some barriers.

Eighteen-year-old Xiaobin (Zhang Xiaobin) is a recent émigré in Buenos Aires, where she’s rejoined her family after an unspecified time living apart. She’s got a job in a deli, but her Spanish is so poor she can’t understand the customers, and she’s fired. She easily finds supermarket work, which is where she meets Indian immigrant Vijay (Saroj Malik), a customer who asks her on a date.

Unbeknownst to her parents, who have no interest in integrating into Argentine society, Xiaobin takes Spanish lessons. The extremely clever conceit of “The Future Perfect” is that as Xiaobin learns new tenses, so her life moves from past and present to an unconditional, and even hypothetical, future. Wohlatz shifts back and forth between Xiaobin’s regular life and the classroom, involving fellow students as they practice conversational Spanish via the usual stereotypical questions-and-answers that are the backbone of all language courses. As a marvelous treat, indie film stalwart Nahuel Pérez Biscayart makes an unexpected appearance, speaking Mandarin, apparently playing himself as an informal guest speaker talking with the class.

Given the large numbers of Asian immigrants in European cities, it’s extraordinary how often they’re ignored by contemporary cinema, so it’s especially welcome that Wohlatz has made a film that’s fresh, funny and completely natural — so natural that the viewer is never quite sure how much real life is mixed in.  Toward the end, as Xiaobin imagines possible futures, it becomes clear this is no docu-fiction, but the neorealist vibes and complete lack of affectation add a level of truthfulness which increases the sense of pleasure.

Wohlatz’s sensitivity to language, the way it’s used and how the ability to express oneself literally changes the manner in which we deal with the world around us, is subtly yet rigorously demonstrated, not just with the words and tenses themselves but how they’re spoken. Zhang and Malik, as well as Xiaobin’s classmates, speak with the wooden tones of people learning an unfamiliar vocabulary, negotiating, and integrating not just foreign words but notions that, through use, lead to more artless dialogue. Visually the film is pleasantly basic, though conceptually its delightfully rich.

Film Review: 'The Future Perfect'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Cinema of the Present), August 9, 2016. Running time: 65 MIN. (Original title: “El future perfecto”)

Production: (Argentina) A Murillo Cine, Nele Wohlatz presentation, in association with Gustavo Beck, of a Murillo Cine production. Producers: Cecilia Salim, Nele Wohlatz. Executive producer: Salim.

Crew: Director, writer: Nele Wohlatz. Camera (color): Roman Kasseroller, Agustina San Martin. Editor: Ana Godoy.

With: Zhang Xiaobin, Saroj Malik, Jiang Mian, Wang Dong Xi, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart. (Spanish, Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as a reliable box office draw. Even so, “La Llorona” and [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content