- November 8, 2013
- Richard Curtis
- Domhnall Gleeson
- Rachel McAdams
- Bill Nighy
- Lydia Wilson
- Lindsay Duncan
- Richard Cordery
- Joshua McGuire
- Tom Hollander
- Margot Robbie
Pleasant and very funny romantic dramedy from a film-maker who KNOWS romantic dramedy.
What if you could go back and relive moments or entire periods of your life: fixing, adjusting, or completely changing them, hopefully, for the better? Would you do it, even if it meant possibly losing/breaking something else? Richard Curtis’ 2013 drama ‘About Time’ addresses that question and the answer may not surprise you, but the journey towards attaining it will entertain and uplift you.
Richard Curtis is an almost tunnel-visioned writer/director. Most all of his films focus on one subject above all else, the endurance of LOVE. His characters amble, stumble, recover, endure, and joyously embrace all that is love for someone or something. He wrote ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’, ‘Love Actually’, ‘Pirate Radio’, and ‘War Horse’. ‘About Time’ is his most intimate story–focusing entirely on one young man and his family. The film has a simple premise: the men in Tim’s family can travel back in time throughout their own lives to change things, and (as Tim’s dad wisely advises) “Do something interesting.”
Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson plays Tim wonderfully. I’ve seen him in other films (‘HP and the Deathly Hallows’, ‘Shadow Dancer’, ‘Dredd’) but this is the first time I’ve really taken notice. Tim is instantly likable, funny, and charismatic. And Gleeson handles the emotional roller-coaster of Tim’s life quite well. Very impressed.
Tim, being a socially awkward young man, uses this newly discovered time-travel skill to “get a girlfriend”–of course he does! We watch repeatable and extremely funny examples of how he makes small “adjustments” to fix his social oopses. I’d love my own personal do-overs. Eventually, he finds a girl he really likes, Mary. And after a wonderful (and literal) blind date, he makes “course correction” for a friend and then completely loses her. His first REAL consequence of time travel.
He quickly (and cleverly) recovers and Tim and Mary begin a life together. These early bits have lots of humor and some truly laugh-out loud moments.
Rachel McAdams plays Mary delightfully. McAdams has been in some of the most romantic “date” films of all time (‘The Notebook’ and ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’). So she’s well equipped to handle another one. Amazingly, I never felt her performance borrowing from those other films. Mary is fresh, engaging, and very down to earth. Gleeson and McAdams have a relaxed and wonderful chemistry. It’s welcome to have a romantic film with two characters that aren’t full of emotional baggage.
As the film progresses we go from Tim and Mary’s story to more of Tim and his dad. Bill Nighy is an extraordinary (and ageless) actor. He’s played just about every kind of character and he’s also a Curtis “regular”. As Tim’s Dad (and fellow traveler) he offers some great advice and true fatherly love and wisdom. The sacrifice Tim must make late in the film regarding his dad versus his own future is magnificently heart-breaking. Nighy and Gleeson are the other “couple” in this film. They have a special and believable father/son bond.
The idea that each moment in life is precious, that we need to make every moment count, is not new to me. It’s nice that a film about time travel ends up showing the importance of the “here and now”.
Some small issues. First, there’s almost no true time travel fallout. Most of Tim’s “travels” result in no permanent damage, he comes out unscathed. Even though he’s left with some tough choices, we never see ‘Back to the Future’ level problems. It all goes rather too easily. The lessons the characters learn in this film are lessons anyone could learn–time travel abilities, or not. In the end, the “time” stuff is more a whimsical gimmick than a true and impactful plot device.
And much of the secondary cast show up and make no impact. Tom Hollander arrives early on as a gruff and bitter family friend/Tim’s roommate only to basically disappear in the second act. Crazy Uncle D (Richard Cordery) is never really fleshed out as a character, he’s just the crazy uncle. Most of Tim and Mary’s friends are accessories to the story and have little character development other than being quirky or dorky, etc… Curtis has always handled large casts well, it’s a shame that this cast doesn’t get more.
Thankfully, Lydia Wilson, as Tim’s sister Kit-Kat, has some serious story impact. She even participates in one VERY consequential adventure with Tim. Wilson gives an effortless and open performance of the only “troubled” character in the film. Nicely done.
I think more depth could’ve been plumbed in the whole “time travel” consequences thing. But Curtis keeps the story light and inviting without the normal messiness of love/time travel stories (aka ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’).
Curtis film’s always have great soundtracks and ‘About Time’ is no exception. Fitting, often obscure, and soulful music for this soulful film.
If you like romantic, comedic, date friendly films ‘About Time’ suits the bill. Great performances from Gleeson, McAdams, and Nighy with a solid, emotional, and easily palatable story. A fun and inspirational drama/comedy/fantasy I heartily recommended. A good use for 120 of your precious minutes;)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
MPAA Rating: R
Length: 123 minutes