RELAX, I'M FROM THE FUTURE Review: Chaotic Buddy Comedy
Rhys Darby, Gabrielle Graham, Janinie Theriault and Julian Richings star in a time-travel comedy, directed by Luke Higginson, based on his own short film.
A casual time traveler unintentionally makes a mess of the future when his latest trip winds up having potentially catastrophic consequences in director Luke Higginson’s feature debut, Relax, I’m From the Future.
Based on Higginson’s 2013 short of the same name, the feature version expands on the idea of a man from the distant future interrupting a suicide attempt and turns it into a kind of chaotic buddy comedy about the end of the world as we know it, maybe.
Casper (Rhys Darby, Our Flag Means Death) lands in our present day from some time far in the future with a mission: document and archive the past that has been lost to future generations and maybe brighten a day or two. Before long, hungry and alone, Casper is met by Holly (Gabrielle Graham, Twenties), a queer black punk rocker who offers him some “depressing corn chips” and invites him out to a punk show that evening, where the two bond. After a bit of convincing from Casper, Holly decides that this weirdo claiming to be a time traveler is actually for real, and the two develop a bit of an on-again, off-again friendship.
Holly discovers that some of Casper’s knowledge of the future could be beneficial for her financially, and while she’s off making bets, Casper decides to try and connect with an unknown artist whose work will someday change the world. Percy (Julian Richings) works at a diner, but when he’s not cleaning tables, he’s doodling, not that anyone in the present cares. Casper is such a future fan that he can’t help fanboying a little over meeting his idol, unfortunately, this interference with the past is more than the space-time continuum can bear and things get out of hand when a future cop (Janine Theriault) comes back to rectify the situation.
Relax, I’m From the Future is a relatively lighthearted time-travel film, despite the fact that some of the later plot revelations turn out to be pretty apocalyptic. A huge part of the film’s success depends on the relationship between Casper and Holly, which is charming, but not overly wrought with emotion. Whether “charming” is enough may depend on your sensibilities, but the film feels as though its reaching for pathos and heft that it never quite reaches.
Thankfully, when Relax, I’m From the Future’s plot feels wanting, there’s always Rhys Darby to keep the audience smiling. One of New Zealand’s most recognizable acting exports, Darby’s bubbly energy keeps the film engaging throughout.
Casper understands some of the stakes involved in his rogue mission to catalog the past for future generations but becomes flustered when things don’t go his way – even when he clearly should’ve seen it coming. Darby’s chipper deliveries often belie the dire circumstances in which he finds himself, however, it’s hard not to love him anyway.
What Relax lacks in demonstrative stakes it more than makes up for with its breezy humor and performances. Higginson’s direction is solid, never flashy, but his writing definitely helps keep the film moving by introducing us to likable characters in interesting situations that take advantage of the time travel conceit. Though Relax, I’m From the Future doesn’t rewrite the rules of time travel, it certainly comes at them with a new angle that is more than enough to keep the audience guessing.
Review originally published during the Fantasia International Film Festival in July 2022. The film opens in North America on Friday, September 22, 2023, only in movie theaters, via Blue Fox Entertainment. Visit the official site for more information.