When I first found out that the writer of such schmaltzy classics as Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral had decided to tackle time travel in his next feature, I was an easy sell. What can I say? They may not be cinematic masterpieces, but Richard Curtis knows what he’s doing when it comes to making romantic comedies with a lot of heart and humor. Just go ahead and check out what he’s worked on over the years of his career. It’s pretty impressive. I mean, the guy wrote episodes of “Blackadder” and one of my favorite Matt Smith episodes of “Doctor Who,” “Vincent and the Doctor.” Okay. I’m going to stop geeking out and get on with what I meant to start. I’m going to review About Time, the time-traveling romantic comedy.
Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) was leading a rather ordinary life when one day, his father (Bill Nighy) sat him down and explained that the men of their family have a peculiar ability. At the age of 21, they develop the ability to travel back in time. There are a few rules, of course. They can only travel within their own lifetimes and they need to be very circumspect as to what they go back and change. While many young men would have decided to take advantage of their newfound abilities to win fame and fortune, Tim decided to use his powers to help his love life.
He leaves home and moves to London where he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams). Of course, he is instantly smitten and the next chunk of the movie follows their unconventional courtship.While the movie focuses on Tim and Mary’s relationship and is somewhat predictable in that regard, it’s the final act of the movie that drove my dad and I to tears. I won’t spoil it for you, of course. Trust me when I say that you start watching the movie to see how Tim and Mary get together and live their lives, but stay through the movie for Tim’s relationship with his father. As I wrote in this week’s list of scene stealers, Bill Nighy just steals the show.
The film is packed with heartwarming moments and bits of well-timed comedy. Richard Curtis has a flare for dialogue and it shows in how he wrote the script for the movie. He and his crew also filled the cast with some fantastic performers like Tom Hollander and Lindsay Duncan as well as some cameos from Richard E. Grant and Richard Griffiths in his last film role.
At its heart, About Time is a movie about living life to the fullest. It’s about love in all of its guises. It’s also about time and how precious it can be. For a movie about wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff, it’s pretty simple at its core. Now, fans of science fiction will probably be disappointed that there’s not enough of those elements in the film. Fans of romantic comedies might think the premise is a little too weird, but it’s no stranger than Sliding Doors. Me? I’m a fan of this movie. A copy of it is on its way to my house as we speak. I look forward to introducing it to people when I get the chance. I will, of course, have tissues ready.
So, that was a short and sweet review for a sweet movie. Now that you know how much I liked it, I’m going to delve into a couple of things I didn’t like about it. These thoughts will be spoilery in nature so stop reading now if you want to see the movie unspoiled. All right, here we go.
First, the movie never really gets into why it’s only the men of Tim’s family that get to travel in time. I would have liked some kind of explanation for the sexist nature of that gift because I think it’s kind of bullshit. I know I’m not alone in that.
As for Tim and Mary’s relationship, it’s clear from their first meeting that there’s chemistry between them and when he does some time traveling to help out a friend, he finds that his actions have prevented Mary from meeting him. So, he figures out a way to meet her again and soon discovers that she has acquired a boyfriend. Since they’re meant to be together, he uses his time travel abilities to fix things so that he and Mary can be together. I get that this is a romantic comedy and that the couple are supposed to end up together, but his actions are a tad stalkery. If they’re meant to be together, he shouldn’t feel compelled to go through such lengths to have her in his life. That said, they are a really ridiculously cute couple. I guess that makes things a little better.
Even looking at its flaws, gaping plot holes, and time travel inconsistencies, I still really like the movie and am looking forward to repeated viewings. It’s okay to acknowledge the flaws in something and still enjoy it. I think Tim would agree. I know his dad certainly would.