It’s been a while since space-themed films have been in vogue, but Molli and Max in the Future may be bringing it back with its premiere at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival. Set in a distant sci-fi future with a plot spanning 12 years and several planets, it still has all the hallmarks of a classic rom-com. Writer-director Michael Lukk Litwak aptly describes the film as an attempt to update the rom-com classic When Harry Met Sally. But does the execution hold up to the fun premise? Let’s take a look.
The Plot and Characters
You have to admit that the premise is fun. You can almost imagine Litwak in a writer’s room saying, “What if we did When Harry Met Sally, but in space?”. The story is set in a universe with multiple alien species and gods living together across planets and dimensions. Molli (Zosia Mamet) is an old-fashioned romantic, except she’s interested in space magic (literal space magic, not your regular horoscopes and crystals). Max (Aristotle Athari) dreams of being a “mega mech fighter” who builds and battles in giant robots, basically the future version of a sporty tech bro.
They meet when Molli crashes into Max while out driving her spaceship, and gets roped into giving him a ride. The two quickly become friends with a bond that yo-yos back and forth over the years. The leads had good chemistry, and there were convincing performances from Zosia Mamet and supporting actor Arturo Castro, who played Walter.
One aspect of the storyline that brought it to modern times was the impending sense of doom, especially in the second act. In 2023, we are all too familiar with the anxiety of living in a world ravaged by the climate crisis, insane politics and war, something which Molli and Max in the Future depicted in thinly veiled satire. I deeply appreciate the angle of people trying to approach love and relationships in a world that is falling apart. Most traditional rom-coms approach life with a sense of optimism that is simply impossibly unrealistic in this day and age. Strangely, the whole world-ending aspect being portrayed in this way is actually refreshing. However, it was introduced joltingly in the second act of the film. The execution of the secondary plot is not as seamless as it could have been.
The film’s visual aesthetic involved a lot of dark night skies lit up with neon lights and distant galaxies. Despite the sci-fi visuals, don’t walk into this film expecting shiny Marvel-esque CGI. Though there are some modern-day special effects, the film mostly relies on practical effects and heavy use of green screens. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the result is the cosy vibe of 20th-century lo-fi science fiction. I especially appreciated the wardrobe which embodied that era of science fiction. It was essentially what someone in 1960 would think people in the future would dress like.
Perhaps the biggest success of this film was that it was actually funny. Most romantic comedies are very heavy on the romance and too light on the comedy. Molli and Max in the Future had plenty of dry jokes that qualified as real humour, and they deserve their props for that. It was nice to see a rom-com that relied on more than cheap clichés and slapstick humour.
In the Broad Sense
The storyline manages to hit all the points that rom-com fans know and love; slow-burn romance, dramatic splits after arguments, a yearning for a greater purpose. However, it doesn’t do much beyond that. Despite the effort put into world-building, special effects, futuristic wardrobes, and political satire, the storyline would hardly been any different if it happened in New York City like When Harry Met Sally did. The film’s setting and premise provided a great set-up to make it something much more, and yet it wasn’t. Though it isn’t necessarily barrier-breaking, it is a unique film and worth a watch. This is a great film if you want some cosy romance with modern sentiments and a side of old-school sci-fi.
Rating: (3 / 5)