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Liane Balaban dreams about tomorrow in the docudrama The Future Is Now!

The Sweet Hereafter

The latest film by surrealist director Gary Burns and journalist Jim Brown offers up an antidote to pessimism so buoyant it could be an Epcot attraction. In The Future Is Now!—a weird and wacky docudrama in which scripted characters interact with real people—the Man of Today (played by Paul Ahmarani) has lost faith in humanity. Enter the Woman of Tomorrow, a wide-eyed, unflinchingly cheery journalist who ignites a spark of hope in the misanthropic Man. She’s portrayed by Liane Balaban, who has been a muse before, albeit an unorthodox one. As Mooney Pottie, a surly teenager dying to get out of Cape Breton in 1999’s New Waterford Girl, she inspired frenzied passion and creativity in her eccentric teacher. It was easy to see why: for all her prickly, eye-rolling angst, Mooney had refreshingly off-kilter panache. In The Future is Now!, Balaban, now 31, flaunts her charm without reservation, turning the Woman of Tomorrow into an avatar of optimism. A long way from moody Mooney, Balaban beams and gleams as she challenges her charge’s libertarian ideas, pontificating on the merits of public transit and the innate goodness of people. Playing the Tigger to his Eeyore, Balaban guides Ahmarani’s character through encounters with a score of intellectuals—Alain de Botton, Richard Dawkins, Rivka Galchen and more play themselves, dazzling the Man of Today with insights into the capabilities of the human mind. Gradually, they nudge him toward enlightenment, though it’s the Woman of Tomorrow’s positivity that’s the clincher. And her dewy loveliness probably doesn’t hurt, either.

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