There is a humorous sequence in the zany Relax, I’m From the Future where a tortured would-be-cartoonist name Percy (Julian Richings) is making a video of his planned suicide on a roof. In the background pops the head of Casper (Rhys Darby), who takes a few minutes to observe the scene before ultimately intervening. A man from another time, Casper did not stop Percy to save his life, but rather because the future has already dictated the correct location of Percy’s death. Fearing that a change in location might alter upcoming events, Casper attempts to convince Percy, who sees the intervention as a new lease on life, to off himself in the appropriate spot.
It is the little details like this that make Luke Higginson’s science fiction comedy, adapted from his 2013 short film of the same name, such a delight to watch. Higginson’s feature-length debut does not get too bogged down with the mechanics of time travel; instead, he provides just enough details to set up his protagonist’s wild journey. In the future time travel is possible, but humans can only go back to the past. After a catastrophic event forever changes the world, Casper travels back to the present with a plan that could possibly save mankind. Looking like a homeless man who found a spandex suit in the alley outside of a comic convention, he has a hard time convincing anyone that he is from the future.
The only one who is remotely nice to him is Holly (Gabrielle Graham), a queer Black woman in the punk rock scene. Striking up an unlikely friendship, Casper offers to use his knowledge of sports, as he already knows the outcomes, to help Holly improve her financial standing. In return, she must follow a specific set of instructions without question. However, even with Holly’s assistance, saving the future will not be easy, especially with Doris (Janine Theriault), a mysterious agent, hunting down time-travellers.
While the notion of a time-traveller killing others like them adds an intriguing layer to the story, Higginson’s film never takes itself seriously enough to explore the ramification in detail. Instead, Relax, I’m From the Future finds immense joy in observing Casper’s fish out of water experience in the present. This turns out to be a wise decision considering how amusing and charming Darby is as the well-meaning time-traveller. No matter how wild the story gets, Darby ensures one is genuinely invested in Casper’s journey.
It also helps that Darby has the prefect comic partner to bounce off of in Graham. The moral centre, Graham is not only believable as the angst-ridden Holly, but brings unexpected heart to the film. Through Holly, Higginson reminds audiences of the real stakes associated with Casper’s journey. She may be disillusioned with the current state of the world, but her faith in humanity is what drives her to try and save it. Even when one begins to question some of Casper’s actions, Holly is there to guide the ship in the right direction.
Higginson’s film may not break new ground in the science fiction genre from a structural point, but it earns every laugh that it gets. The sharp script is full of memorable lines and pop culture references, take for example when Holly’s friend chastised her choice of hookup partners as “Xavier school rejects”, that will stick with audiences well after the film is over. A delightful comedic romp with genuine heart, Relax, I’m From the Future is worth setting aside time for.
Relax, I’m From the Future screened at the 2022 Fantasia Film Festival. Head here for more coverage.