VISITOR FROM THE FUTURE (LE VISITEUR DU FUTUR) REVIEW: FRIGHTFEST 2022

In François Descraques’ post-apocalyptic action sci-fi comedy, a father and daughter time-travel to save their relationship and/or the world.

“Turn back!”, are the first words heard in Visitor From The Future (Le visiteur du futur), addressed to a technician who is running into a nuclear power plant in meltdown while his colleagues are all fleeing the other way. The ambiguity of these words – meant as a plea to change his direction of travel when in fact he is making a last-ditch attempt to reverse the unfolding cataclysm – is a key dynamic in a film where, long after the reactor has exploded causing massive damage to the world and sending survivors underground, one ragtag group of time travellers from the future tries to turn back the clock and prevent the disaster ever happening, while another is determined to preserve at any costs the integrity of the past, no matter how destructive it will already have proven.

When the ‘tramp’-like visitor (Florent Dorin) from the future is prevented from stopping the reactor meltdown by the intervention of two armed Time Patrol agents (who regard him as a ‘terrorist’), he decides to turn back further in time, and to steal the computer of Gilbert Alibert (Arnaud Ducret), hoping to discredit the executive publicly before he can ever authorise the construction of the nuclear plant. This leads to an encounter with Gilbert’s environmentalist daughter Alice (Enya Baroux), who is trying to steal the same computer for exactly the same reasons, and a violent engagement with a trio of Time Patrol operatives (Mathieu Poggi, Audrey Pirault, Vincent Tirel) who, together with their boss (Lénie Cherino), are adamant that the power plant must be built so that it can catastrophically collapse many years later. As the visitor pulls Gilbert and Alice into 2555AD, introducing them to his friends Raph’ (Raphaël Descraques), Henry (Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun) and Weasel (Assa Sylla) and showing them the bleak post-apocalyptic ruins of Paris that he calls home and that are about to be destroyed once and for all by an approaching nuclear storm, both Gilbert and Alice must decide how far they are willing to go in altering their own past to avert the future end of the world.

Adapted by writer/director François Descraques (Dark Stories, 2019) from his 2009-2014 webseries of the same name, Visitor From The Future is an action sci-fi comedy that turns various theories about time travel and temporal paradoxes into struggles between different parties variously trying to change the past or to conserve it, and influencing one another’s efforts in complicated ways while erasing all record of their own interferences.

Along the way there are zombies (expressly of the ‘undead’, ‘walking’ variety), roughneck bars, a community of children straight out of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and sequences set on the killing fields of the Great War just to remind us of man’s capacity for futile. self-destructive inhumanity.

It is also about as light-hearted and funny as a film about mass death and the end times can be, with Descraques making great play of at best the shabby ordinariness, and at worst the incompetence and idiocy, of these characters, all conflicted by their place in a humanity that does not always seem worth saving. And if, for the sake of everyone else’s future, one of these characters must sacrifice their whole life, then in this world of temporal anomalies, causes do not alway lead to the predicted consequences, and turning back – even back to the womb – need not after all mean the end of things.