‘About Time,’ a good natured British rom-com with a surprising splash of sci-fi, is a bright and buoyant film that deserves not to be overlooked amongst the solemn dramas of fall.
Directed and written by Richard Curtis (that transatlantic powerhouse of modern romantic comedies, who helped bring ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ ‘Notting Hill,’ and ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ to romantics everywhere), ‘About Time’ is the story of Tim (Domhnall Gleeson in the ‘Hugh Grant’ role), who finds out at age 21 about his unique genetic affliction. Tim’s loving and ever-present, erudite father (Bill Nighy) reveals that males in the family inherit the strange ability to time travel when they reach adulthood. He further explains that the superhuman ability can only be used within his lifetime, informing Tim that he ‘can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy.’ But, instead, Tim can now change and refine his own life events.
Tim soon leaves his gorgeous, seaside family estate in Cornwall to continue his studies as a barrister in London whereupon he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams in the ‘Julia Roberts’ role) during a literal ‘blind date’ in a dark restaurant. Tim soon uses his power a la ‘Groundhog Day’ to refine, relive, and improve his blossoming romance with Mary. But, what starts out as a romance with a twist, reveals itself to be a more complex musing on the importance of relationships and family.
Curtis’ formula is a familiar one to fans of his previous work, but it seems slightly more intimate with his increased use of a hand-held camera approach. Although the script uses his famous love + crisis = heartfelt romance (and seems a bit overly long at 123 minutes), Curtis manages to throw a couple of unexpected steps into the calculation, making the elements still add up.
Further figuring into the charm of the movie is Curtis film stalwart, Bill Nighy. Nighy is the emotional center of this film, a deeply emotional father who truly wishes Tim will use his talent to live in the little moments of each day and notice the minutiae of each interaction. Nighy takes this lynchpin role and runs with it, such that even incongruities in the largely non-existent explanation of this time-traveling talent do not matter. Instead, the audience is caught up in Nighy’s touching portrayal of a father who has spent years refining his perspective on the need to live each day to the fullest. Ginger-haired Gleeson (son of famed actor, Brendan Gleeson) is also greatly appealing as a slightly geeky, but wholehearted, young man, who finds out more about the meaning of life than he anticipated, prompting the film’s third act to be more poignant than might be expected in a somewhat formulaic approach. Unfortunately, Rachel McAdams’ (the only actress I’m aware of to have been in two recent time-travel-romance movies) role is thinly written, serving to provide support to Tim rather than partnering with him in profound revelations.
In essence, ‘About Time’ is small, entertaining film for adults with oodles of charm and deep-felt sentiment. Although this is a version of what you have seen before, ‘About Time’ touchingly reveals that the most crucial part of time travel is understanding the importance of now. ‘About Time’ is rated 4 - of 5 stars (‘recommended’).
‘About Time’ is rated R for ‘language and some sexual content.’ It is in limited release this Friday (at the Santikos Bijou in San Antonio) and opens everywhere November 8th.