Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dallas IFF 2013 Review: THE MAN FROM THE FUTURE - Javi's Take

Directed by: Cláudio Torres
Written by: Cláudio Torres
Starring: Wagner Moura, Aline Moraes, Maria Luísa Mendoca and Fernando Ceylão
Synopsis: When a scientist accidentally discovers time travel, he uses this great power with great responsibility and tries to warn his past self about the humiliation he will go through during a college party.

During every iteration of the Dallas International Film Festival, I try to catch at least one movie in Spanish. The first one I caught was a Portuguese film, THE MAN FROM THE FUTURE, which is a sci-fi romantic comedy that ended up being surprisingly full of heartfelt and heart wrenching moments

The movie deals with Joao "Zero", who is working on building a new energy source while working at a University. Zero is angry, moody, his apartment is a mess, he smokes, and he's constantly yelling at those around him. Turns out that he had something happen to him in college that's been haunting for a good twenty years. Seeing as his money is running out, Zero makes a Hail Mary Pass (it's a sportsball reference I heard once) to activate his new energy source and prove that he is still viable. While trying to activating the energy source, he is thinking of that haunting incident which inadvertently makes him travel back in time to 1991.

Turns out that he had his heart broken  by his college girlfriend Helena (Mendoca) on this very night in 1991, and it was something so traumatic that it shaped the angry, moody person that he has become. We don't get the full details of what happened that night until later in the movie, but when Zero realizes where/when he is, he decides to warn his past self about all that will happen. This ends up creating an alternate reality of course, and that's when things get interesting.

The aspect of the movie that impressed me the most was Wagner Moura, who plays Zero. After the movie, Jonesy informed me that Moura was the same actor from ELITE SQUAD 2: THE ENEMY WITHIN. I was truly shocked. If you've seen ELITE SQUAD, you know that the movie is super serious, and Moura plays a grizzled police officer. In THE MAN..., Moura is technically playing one character, but it might as well be multiples. There's a point in the film where the past and future selves meet, and it's just amazing to watch Moura play multiple different Zeros, and the way that he walks, stands, moves, and talks are all completely different from one version to the other.

The story itself ends up going places where I didn't imagine it. It's actually really clever in the way that it takes romantic comedy cliches and not only subverts them, but it makes them work for great dramatic effect in the movie's story. Along those lines, there are some insanely emotional moments that made the room get a little misty. And beyond that, there are a lot of hilarious funny bits of dialogue and physical humor.

Once the details of the relationship that Zero has with Helena are revealed and the mystery is lifted, you get to see a lot of great chemistry between Moura and Moraes. Ms. Moreas was also another highlight for me where her performance conveyed a type of sincerity that you don't see often in these types of movies. When she says, "I love you," to Zero, you believe it. She's not a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, even though she helps Zero come out of his shell. And what's best is that Helena goes from being a plot device to her own person.

THE MAN FROM THE FUTURE's message ends up being a nice middle road where you can't dwell on the past, but you also have to live in the moment and hopefully you can find a balance that will make you happy. It also felt like it's a call to nerds to not be such damn debbie downers all the time and believe in themselves every once in a while and stop being afraid. This ended up being one of the most positive movies I'd seen during the festival and one that I would gladly watch again.

THE MAN FROM THE FUTURE plays again on Friday, April 12th, 2013 at 4:00pm at the Magnolia Theater in Dallas.

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