For the filmmaking tandem of Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot, the catharsis in their character-driven drama No Future resonates on both sides of the camera.
Not only does their second feature — which was shot in Fort Worth — feel more personal, it’s also an intentional change of pace in terms of theme and tone from the Austin duo’s prior work.
It explores the cycle of addiction and recovery through a connection between two people grieving the same loss in different ways. Will (Charlie Heaton) is a recovering addict who learns a childhood friend has died from an overdose. He returns to his hometown overwhelmed with guilt and reconnects with his friend’s mourning mother (Catherine Keener) to process his feelings. As their relationship evolves, the film examines trauma and redemption from both sides.
“This comes from a different place from our earlier films. We were interested in telling a story about two people brought together by tragedy and grief,” Smoot said during the recent Dallas International Film Festival. “Their connection deepens by this mutual guilt and shame — exploring how through each other, there’s the potential for salvation. With the lack of grace and forgiveness in the world, how can that affect our relationship with ourselves and with each other?”
The intimate story, which is not specifically set in any location, was originally slated for production in the Austin area, but logistically the filmmakers couldn’t make it work. Hence the relocation to Tarrant County for a four-week shoot in spring 2019, using a mostly local cast and crew.
“It needed to be small-town Texas,” said Austin-based producer Jonathan Duffy. “In Fort Worth, we found a couple of places immediately, and it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Along with Heaton (“Stranger Things”) and two-time Oscar nominee Keener (Being John Malkovich), the cast includes Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel) and Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children).
Irvine and Smoot returned to DIFF’s abbreviated 2021 festival after their subversive romantic comedy The Love Inside won a jury award six years ago.
In realizing their latest vision, the directing tandem praised the inventiveness of cinematographer Jomo Fray (Selah and the Spades), who likewise felt the sensitivity of the subject matter.
“The framing is a little unconventional. His sensibility was in sync with ours,” Irvine said. “He’s bold and feels confident in his approach. He has this distinct look that evokes different feelings.”
No Future debuted this summer at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, after originally being part of the event’s cancelled 2020 lineup. It will be available via on-demand platforms beginning this weekend.