Ten years after writer-director Richard Curtis reinvented the romantic-comedy in his brilliant epic “Love Actually,” he strikes solid gold again with the one-of-a-kind must-see gem “About Time.” This marvelously original genre defying delight is part fantasy, part romance, part drama, part very funny comedy and all-out celebration of the wonderful eccentricities, joys, sorrows and accidents both happy and tragic of life and family. Now available on DVD, including your Roanoke Valley Public Libraries, this is one to grab as soon as possible.
To head up the eccentric aspect, Curtis turns to his favorite go-to guy Bill Nighy. He plays the wonderfully wacky and loving patriarch of the Lake family. They are an ideal close-knit clan that has weekly rain or shine picnics on the beach, annual sub-par New Year’s Eve parties and regular not to hotly contested father-son Ping-Pong matches. The fantasy enters when son Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21 and Dad reveals to him a secret to this carefree life. The men in the family have the ability to time travel within the course of their own lives.
Of course Tim thinks it’s another of his dad’s many jokes until he goes for a spin himself. All it takes is secreting himself in a dark, quiet space, thinking of a time and clinching his fists. His dad warns him against using the ability to acquire fame or fortune. He advises him to use it for that which would make him happy. For Tim that would be a girlfriend. He finds her in the form of Mary (the ever delightful Rachel McAdams) and sets out to win her love in awkward and hilarious fashion.
The charm and beauty of this film is its focus on the people. The fantasy element is accepted and performed simply without special effects or any big to-do made over it. It is just another of the many story catalysts. The relationships are genuine and among people that we truly enjoy spending time with. Even the inimitable and often totally out there Bill Nighy is perfectly grounded here and gives us a wonderful father figure we either recognize and relish or that we wish for ourselves.
And just as life is not all fun and games, no matter how hard we try to make it so, the movie has its share of pain and sadness but still finds beauty within them. A final private moment between father and son is guaranteed to leave you sobbing. Yet you’ll laugh as hard as you cry and reap joyous emotional rewards from this movie you’ll want to experience again and again.