We all have moments from our past that we would like to change. Whether it was something we did or something someone did to us, there is a moment that we think, if I could only change that one point, my life would be completely different. The trouble is, of course, that making that change may create something worse.
Such is the premise of Man From the Future, written and directed by Cláudio Torres, a film that attempts to cross Carrie with Timecrimes with Peggy Sue Got Married. It's not quite as successful as that sounds. The film has its moments, and some fine comic performances but ends up being dragged down by length and predictability.
João (Wagner Maura), or 'Zero', is a scientist who, with his friend Otávio (Fernando Ceylão), has created a machine that will provide free and cheap energy to the world. However, the machine can also transport people in time, and João wants to go back to the worst moment of his life, when his university girlfriend Helena (Alinne Moraes) humiliated him in front of the school before leaving him for a modelling career in Europe. João succeeds in convincing his younger self not to repeat events, but once transported to his new future, João 2 discovers that his life is even worse, and so he goes back in time to prevent João 1 from succeeding in his plan.
Nothing is more cultural specific than comedy, and there were likely moments of humour that were lost on me, due to my lack of familiarity with Brazilian culture. But much of the humour is pretty standard and universal, both from within the science fiction genre and the university comedy. The geeky scientist guy tussles with the smooth operator, the confusion of multiple versions of yourself messing with the timelines, the convoluted plots which lead to comical confusion. Anyone who has been bullied or embarrassed in front of their fellow students will appreciate the lengths that both Joãos go to, to secure a better future.
The best moments are when the Joãos from the future are arguing with young João, debating the merits of humiliation that can spur the bullied into greatness, or whether such humilation causes too much damage (I'm making it sound a bit more serious than perhaps I should). Maura and especially Ceylão as the lovable sidekick have excellent comic chemistry, and make their characters both sympathetic and enjoyable.
As stated, in a time travel film, where the intention is to change the future, there is a certain predictability. When João first changes his past, it is inevitable (since it's only a third of the way through the film) that his new life will not be what he imagined. Once it hits this predictable path, rather than finding unique comic moments within it, the story relies on genre cliche a bit too much (such as the former beauty queen who hates her former love, or stereotypical characters one finds at a school dance, or that it is future technology that ends up saving the day).
Man From the Future is a fairly enjoyable ride, for the most past. Its heart is in the right place, and its commits to its story and telling. But I'm guessing there might be more cultural context in this than I can interpret, and in the end I found the ride a little too predictable to be very memorable.
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