Relax, I’m From the Future is the debut feature for Luke Higginson, based on his short that premiered at TIFF back in 2013. In the short, a man is about to commit suicide, but is interrupted by someone claiming to be from the future. This idea of someone bumbling to change the past stuck with Higginson, and nearly a decade later, we can now laugh at the numerous misadventures of a dimwitted time traveler.
I’ve often daydreamed of what I would do if I were to somehow time travel to the past. Would I share my knowledge with scientists to bring about technological advances even sooner? Would I warn leaders of crises to come? Would I get filthy rich from predicting historical events? Or would I just be seen as a crazy man wandering the streets, rambling on about doom and destruction that await us in the near future? Such possibilities are explored in this sci-fi comedy.
Man from the future Casper (Rhys Darby, What We Do in the Shadows) is transported to the present day with nothing but a skin-tight purple suit and notes scribbled on his hands. With no money and no one to contact, Casper navigates this new world like a fish out of water. Within a day, he’s reduced to sleeping on the streets, hungry and alone. That quickly changes though when he’s offered leftover nachos from Holly (Gabrielle Graham, Possessor), a queer punk girl trying to figure out her place in the world. She invites Casper to a punk show, and as they get drunk and high together, Casper regales her with facts about the future. Holly plays along but doesn’t completely believe that Casper is from the future. That is until he is able to predict a freak event that no one could have possibly anticipated.
“For a film with a modest budget, the editing is still very stylish […] using split screens, like a Brian De Palma film…”
Casper brings Holly into his two-part scheme to save the world. The first step involves getting rich off winning lottery tickets and sports betting, though Holly is warned she can only use her share of the winnings to live comfortably and not to influence systemic change. The second step of the plan Casper keeps to himself, but it somehow involves Percy Sullivan (Canadian genre film legend Julian Richings, Anything For Jackson), a depressed diner employee who doodles on the side. According to Casper, Percy’s art becomes priceless in the future after his death, inspiring memes and street art. But unbeknownst to Casper, he’s being tracked by an agent from the future called Doris (Janine Theriault, Upside Down), who’s tasked with removing all future visitors using her trusty handheld vaporizer.
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The overall concept of the future is kept vague. We don’t know exactly what year Casper is from, and the audience is only given rare glimpses of what the future holds. Unlike the dozens of movies about time travel, Casper says there’s no butterfly effect or multiverses resulting from a single decision. Rather, he describes the future as a blob that adapts to changes made to the past, eventually ironing everything out in the timeline. Most choices we make in our everyday lives have no effect in the long run and only a handful of humans have the ability to shape the future. Things get somewhat confusing in the third act as the rules of time and space are bent and broken, but not at the expense of the comedy.
For a science fiction film, the visual effects are kept to a minimum. The only times VFX are used are when we peek into Doris’ home, filled with holograms and floating screens, and when her vaporizer disintegrates its victims into dust. For a film with a modest budget, the editing is still very stylish. Some shots are displayed using split screens, like a Brian De Palma film, where you can see the action play out from different angles all at once. Certain scenes are also intercut with simplistic animations of Percy’s cartoon characters.
“As funny as it is, Relax, I’m From the Future does have its dark moments.”
The film’s strongest suit is its cast. Rhys Darby’s mere presence is enough to induce laughter. As evidenced in Our Flag Means Death, he’s very good at playing a lead who’s in way over his head, yet maintains a cheery disposition. But my main motivation for going to see this film is for Holly. If a movie has a punk rock character, I have to watch it, regardless of the plot. But the character of Holly is more complex than your average cinematic portrayal of a punk. In one scene, Holly denounces grassroots activism, having made enough money to never work again, but is then reminded that she has betrayed the punk ethos she once held dear by running random errands at a moment’s notice for a strange white man. There’s definitely something Casper isn’t telling her, and his requests keep getting more elaborate and unreasonable.
I was pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack, which included some of the best Toronto punk bands going right now, like PUP, Bad Waitress and METZ. In fact, Holly takes Casper to go see PUP live and after the show, Casper goes on about how much PUP sucks in the future, and the concert they just saw is as good as they’re going to get. If he were talking about any other band, this would come off as harsh, but I know for a fact PUP have a good sense of humor about themselves since the band joked about becoming sellouts in their last album.
As funny as it is, Relax, I’m From the Future does have its dark moments. Janine Theriault plays a great villain with very little care for human life. Considering the trajectory humanity is currently on, the future is looking rather bleak, and this movie reflects a lot of the bleakness, as well as the sinking existential feeling that most of us are incapable of stopping said trajectory. Additionally, some might feel uncomfortable with how the film pokes fun at themes of suicide, but for the most part, viewers will fall in love with this quirky comedy. Definitely worth time traveling to see it again.
“Considering the trajectory humanity is currently on, the future is looking rather bleak, and this movie reflects a lot of the bleakness…”
Relax, I’m From the Future celebrated its World Premiere on July 20th at the 26th edition of the Fantasia Film Festival. What would you do if you were transported to the past? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.