Future Weather tells a familiar coming-of-age story that concerns a young character's gradual realization that she, perhaps, doesn't quite know everything. Lauduree (Perla Haney-Jardine) is a 13-year-old girl who, in the opening moments, is abandoned by Tanya (Marin Ireland), her clearly unstable party-girl mother who's desperately latched onto the dream of being a Hollywood makeup artist. Tanya flees to California, leaving Lauduree $50 and a note that advises her to look up her grandmother, Greta (Amy Madigan), for a place to stay.
The film is overly indebted to formula, but at its best, it's an engagingly free-form character study. Lauduree, ably played by Haney-Jardine, is a truthful and resonant creation—one of those children who've mastered almost total self-sufficiency at a remarkably early age out of a necessary need to over-compensate for their parents' failures. Lauduree, clearly a smart, capable girl, wields her intelligence as a weapon in an effort to conceal her vulnerability and disappointment with her premature discovery of life's capacity for loss and chaos.
There are wonderful offhand moments that illustrate how Lauduree, who's intensely interested in science, uses her experiments in correcting micro-ecological issues as attempts to exert a level of control over at least one facet of her life. One scene particularly stands out: Lauduree and a recent friend, an awkward overweight boy named Neel (Anubhav Jain), wade through a river searching for bivalves for one of their experiments. Lauduree eventually finds one, and we see her dip her head under water to examine it in an image that expresses a brief, welcome moment of peace.
Future Weather marks writer-director Jenny Deller as a talent to watch, but there's room for improvement, particularly regarding her writing. The script is often difficult to believe, and quite a bit of the dialogue jarringly telegraphs thematic points that are already clear. Madigan gives a warm, appealing performance, but she has to brave many of Deller's poorer instincts, as Greta is mostly a stereotype of the hard-workin', hard-drinkin' blue-collar woman. And Ireland, another promising performer who's saddled with the film's only outright terrible scenes, has it even worse. Still, Future Weather is ultimately enjoyable despite its faults, at least partially because it represents an earnest, honest attempt to empathize with struggling American working-class women, a portion of the country's population that's sadly underrepresented in Hollywood.