Inside the Hamilton Filming Locations of Ontario's Own 'Relax, I'm from the Future'

The sci-fi comedy includes numerous Steeltown landmarks, including Grandad's Donuts and a PUP concert at Absinthe Nightclub

BY Rachel HoPublished Oct 2, 2023

Home of the Tiger Cats and the province's finest steel mills, Hamilton, ON, has become quite the hot spot for film and television productions, including The Boys and The Umbrella Academy. A city known for its industrious history and salt-of-the-earth residents, where better to land a time traveller seeking to prevent a world-altering catastrophe?

Opening in theatres October 6, Luke Higginson's directorial debut, Relax, I'm from the Future sees a man from the future, Casper (Rhys Darby), trapped in the past. Rather than attempting to return to his timeline, Casper sets about trying to improve the situation of the present — and, in doing so, alters his future intentionally and unintentionally. In exchange for information that will grant her financial stability, he befriends Holly (Gabrielle Graham) to assist him in this endeavour. Existential issues eventually unravel, but not before Casper runs into his fair share of comical fish-out-of-water instances. 

Using Hamilton's cold yet vibrant surroundings, Casper and Holly fight for the future in a city that wears its pride on its sleeve. We've welded together some of the city's finest and most historic locales that feature heavily in the latest Canadian sci-fi comedy. 

Wellington Park
When Holly first meets our purple time traveller, he's road-weary and propped up in disarray against a fountain. The small park corner Casper made into a makeshift hotel for the night also happens to be where Hamilton's foundations were initially laid, including the settlement of the city's first families, the first public house, Smith's Tavern, and the area's first log schoolhouse. Wellington Park may be indistinguishable from the many little green spaces around Hamilton, but it's "The Place of Firsts," where the Steel City can trace its history. 

Absinthe Nightclub
After Casper recognizes Holly's PUP T-shirt in Wellington Park, Holly mentions that she's working the door for the band's next gig, which, of course, is at Absinthe Nightclub — the city's home to not only live music, but drag and dance nights as well. A mainstay of Hamilton's night scene, Relax, I'm from the Future stands as a time capsule of the club's decade-long home at King William Street and Hughson Street North, following Absinthe's return to its original location at 233 King Street East.

Grandad's Donuts
Family-owned and -operated since the early 2000s, locals and visitors to the Hammer can't pass up the opportunity to indulge in some old-fashioned, handmade treats at Grandad's Donuts. For Casper, the coffee and donut spot becomes a meeting point of sorts — but, more importantly, it's where he keeps an eye on Percy (Julian Richings), whose future becomes more significant than anyone initially realizes. For those of us happily living in the present, Grandad's Donuts personifies the David to Tim Hortons's Goliath. 

Hamilton Central Library 
The setting of Holly's final confrontation, Hamilton's Central Library is architecturally the ultimate mash-up between the remnants of the late-'70s brutalist style and the modern, glass-heavy contemporary look (courtesy of a 2010 renovation). York Boulevard has been the library's home since it opened in 1980, when it replaced the main library built in 1913, and has served the greater Hamilton area since. Perhaps not as sexy as Absinthe Nightclub, but a community pillar and essential service nonetheless. Support your local library!

The Cotton Factory
Built in 1900, the historic industrial complex contains some of the oldest buildings in the city and evidence of the textile economy that enriched Hamilton alongside the steel mills in the late 19th to early 20th century. Featured prominently throughout Relax, I'm from the Future, the Cotton Factory remains a popular filming location in the province, in addition to being a creative arts centre and modern office space. A regular participant in Doors Open Ontario, the Cotton Factory's century-plus history makes for a fascinating visit.

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