Relax, I’m From the Future Review

We review Luke Higginson’s time-travel comedy Relax, I’m From the Future, starring Rhys Darby and Gabrielle Graham.

PLOT: A man from the future, now trapped in the past, tries to live a lowkey life without disrupting predetermined events, oblivious to the consequences of his foolish actions.

REVIEW: Traveling to the past is a risky business. If you’re not careful, the slightest mistake could alter the course of history, triggering a domino effect of events never intended. Your best strategy to survive the ordeal is to lay low, complete your mission, and return to your time. In Relax, I’m From the Future, Casper (Rhys Darby) thinks rules are malleable and gaming the system to live comfortably is worth the risk of upending the universe. He isn’t looking to harm anyone, quite the opposite. Still, Casper isn’t the brightest crayon in the box, and when things don’t work out as intended, he quickly discovers it takes more than one person to make a difference.

Arriving in a Terminator-like time bubble to mostly unintentionally share a cautionary tale that’s somehow full of both nihilism and hope, Luke Higginson’s Relax, I’m From the Future presents a punk-feminist, Douglas Adams-esque bent on time travel shenanigans that’s a deeply Canadian exploration of the question: What would it look like it the 1% survived an apocalypse?

The answer: Two entitled, differently thoughtless people in Casper and the lethal assassin Doris (Janine Theriault), whose job is to ensure the elite ascend to their ivory towers after the world’s fallen apart.

After traveling to 2023, Casper befriends Holly (Gabrielle Graham), a disillusioned activist whose disenchantment with participating in protests that yield little to no change pushes her toward going about her business in a fog of weed smoke and dissipating whisps of inspiration to inflict real difference in the world. Will she give up on her dream of making the world a better place, or is partnering with a time traveler precisely what she needs to stoke the fire of innovation?

Unfortunately for Holly, Casper isn’t all that he seems. He’s bored, fuels himself with nostalgia for what he considers a quaint, bygone era, and pays little attention to the consequences of his actions. While Casper does grow throughout the journey, his early efforts poke holes in his mission from the jump, leaving Holly and others around him to do the heavy lifting. He’s lazy and wants to do something other than emotional or intellectual labor. This fool is who’s going to save the world from ruin? My Magic 8 Ball says, “Doubtful.”

Meanwhile, Doris is on the warpath, atomizing any time travelers found “important” with a weapon given to her by the aristocracy. She eradicates would-be explorers with zero empathy and no sense of worth for human life and compares herself to Spanish colonizers in a favorable light. Theriault is hypnotic and fun as the menacing lapdog Doris, who would rather erase individuals than question her champagne-swilling overlords.

Then there’s the rightfully disenfranchised Holly, the actual hero of the film. She’s given activism an honest shot but finds the results lacking. Repeated failure has made her bitter. So, given the opportunity from a random white guy to live comfortably, she takes it. After using Casper’s knowledge of the future to manipulate lottery numbers and live like an under-the-radar high-roller, Holly begins to want more. She discovers something good in her desire to affect the future. Holly finds motivation. The journey wakes her from apathy, and she starts asking big questions.

Holly starts scrutinizing Casper’s mission and seeing him as more than a quirky cash cow. Who is this bumbling stranger willing to put her at risk to save himself? Is what he’s doing going to change everything for the better, or is the planet doomed no matter what? Eventually, Holly wants to move beyond comfort. She needs to make sure what they’re doing is for a better tomorrow. Graham delivers a nuanced performance as Holly, especially as she evolves from a cynical drifter to someone eager to use her knowledge of the future for the betterment of humankind.

While Higginson peppers the story with cheeky laughs and situational comedy akin to Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, the script provides moments of genuine reflection from Darby and Graham. In these moments, the film shines as it sobers the mood with existential reckonings and questions about how we, as a species, ensure we’re heading toward a brighter future.

How do you live your life after learning the world eats its tail and the rich get richer? Suppose you’re Percy (Julian Richings), a yet-to-be-discovered artist whose work inspires millions after his death. In that case, you sideline your suicidal tendencies and share your intimate knowledge with the world. It’s hard to imagine someone other than Richings playing Percy, with his spider-like limbs awkwardly moving about and his sharp features lending to the artist’s disbelief and dawning realizations about the future. Percy plays a pivotal role in the times to come. Still, he’ll find his prophetic passions challenged by Holly and her newfound inspiration before the credits roll.

Relax, I’m From the Future offers something different for audiences tired of time travel loops in cinema. Free of the sci-fi splash of movies like The Adam ProjectLooper, and The Tomorrow War and powered by the sounds of Canadian punk bands like Pup and METZ, Higginson’s comedic take on manipulating the time-space continuum asks for answers to real questions that we face daily. How can we be the change we want to see in the world? If every little bit helps, what steps can you take toward raising people on your level? My suggestion? Roll up a dutchie, ask big questions, and get to work.


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