Before We Vanish by Paul Attard Film

The Future Perfect | Nele Wohlatz

September 15, 2017

If there’s one thing The Future Perfect has going for it—perhaps more so than any other film playing ND/NF this year—it’s how its premise builds out of its central character’s development. Living in Argentina, Xiaobin (Zhang Xiaobing), a Chinese immigrant, can barely speak a word of Spanish. Her family encourages her to stick to her roots, but Xiaobin decides to enroll in a language school, where the world around her begins to slowly open up. She later meets Vijay (Saroj Kumar Malik), an immigrant from India who also has trouble with his Spanish speaking skills. The two form a bond over their general misunderstanding of language, allowing for director Nele Wohlatz to explore the awkwardness the two face on a daily basis.

Entering a restaurant to order some food becomes an ordeal quickly, when the only word Xiaobin knows (“barbeque”) doesn’t appear on the menu. Her classmates serve as a Greek choir, parroting questions the audience may ask in the form of language exercises, fitting somewhat clunkily within the narrative (the only time the film’s ponderings become intrusive rather than organic). Once Xiaobin begins to learn more Spanish, The Future Perfect becomes less focussed on its premise, resorting instead to an escapism that doesn’t work and an unnecessarily cruel reveal towards the end. Still, until its denouement, Wohlatz’s film shows promise in understanding how fragile language—and the language of cinema—really is, by addressing it on its most human level possible. 


Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2017 | Dispatch 1.