Saturday, September 23, 2023

Relax, I’m from the Future, Co-Starring Julian Richings

Maybe science fiction has done us a disservice, filling our heads with unnecessarily dire warnings regarding the space-time continuum and time paradoxes. Perhaps if we ever achieve the means to time-travel, we should just take the opportunity to see famous bands before they started to suck and load up on collectibles. That is the approach lunkheaded Casper takes, but there is a decent chance he might be dangerously moronic in director-editor-screenwriter Luke Higginson’s Relax, I’m from the Future, which is now playing in New York.

Naïve Casper has obviously been blessed with good luck rather than brains. When he arrives through the time-portal thingy, fate delivers him to Holly, a hard-partying underachiever, who finds his future-talk amusing. Being a failed-activist millennial, she is sufficiently inconsequential to history, allowing her to serve as Casper’s front for placing sports bets (a lot of hockey, since they are in Canada) and buying lottery tickets.

Life becomes quite enjoyably meaningless for both, at least for a while. Unbeknownst to them, Doris, an enforcer from the future stationed in the current time-period, is always on the lookout for potentially disruptive time-travelers like Casper. Given his knowledge of cataclysmic future events, Casper is fairly confident he cannot mess things up too badly. However, his obsession with Percy Sullivan, a darkly cynical cartoonist, leads to trouble. In the future, Sullivan will be a popular cult icon for fans like Casper, who cannot resist crashing his “celebrated” suicide. Perversely, all that might change when Sullivan refuses to continue after Casper’s rude interruption.

The feature-length
Relax grew out of Higginson’s short, which focused on Casper fateful meeting with Sullivan. In fact, this is the point where the feature starts getting good. The first act is largely a hodge podge of Casper’s buffoonery and a lot of radically-charged whining from Holly and her fellow lesbian friends. In contrast, Casper’s dilemma as to what to do about a still-living Sullivan constitutes a rather clever and darkly comic time-travel problem, which continues to compound in increasingly outrageous ways.

Arguably, the true star of
Relax is Julian Richings, who somewhat appropriately looks a good deal like William Burroughs playing Sullivan. It is indeed a delightfully mordant performance, giving off aptly weird cult vibes. Rhys Darby is also so relentlessly chipper and guileless as Casper, he will win over most viewers. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the ensemble assembled around them is rather charmless.

After half-an-hour or so of meandering,
Relax becomes an entertaining (and in some ways even smart) time-travel comedy. Recommended for fans of time-travel with the patience to wait out the slow start, Relax, I’m from the Future is now playing in New York, at the AMC Empire.