Synopsis: At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think.
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan
Director: Richard Curtis
Running Length: 123 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: The majority of the films that writer/director Richard Curtis has been involved with have required a few viewings before I was able to make up my mind whether I liked them or not. As the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and both movies in the Bridget Jones franchise Curtis displayed a cheeky and very British charm that he extended into his directorial debut: Love, Actually. For his third (and reportedly final) time sitting in the director’s chair, he’s delivered one of his most well-rounded and deeply felt flights of fancy.
I get the feeling that About Time is the product of two ideas that wound up being molded into one crisp film, the romance angle is something that Curtis could probably do in his sleep but it’s the time-travel element that makes the movie truly unique. In adding in that fantasy element, Curtis has allowed the film to break free of the romance flick clichés and chart its own path, becoming less about finding true love but in valuing the love right in front of us.
Love-lorn Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, Anna Karenina) narrates the film from a time and place we’re not quite sure of, he clearly knows how this will all end but doesn’t hint at what’s to unspool over the next two hours. We meet his family, eccentric in their own right but not quite as daffy as some of the other loons Curtis has scripted through the years. Dad (Bill Nighy, The World’s End), Mom (Lindsay Duncan), sis Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) and Uncle D (Richard Cordery) all live in blissful harmony in a home nestled by the sea outside of London.
When Tim’s dad spills a family secret (all of the men in the family have the ability to travel through time) Tim does what any young man would…uses it to manipulate a situation to impress girls. Setting his sights first on a visiting friend of his sister’s (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street), he learns over one lazy summer that maybe not even time travel could solve some of his woes.
Though the film is billed as a love story between Tim and American Mary (Rachel McAdams, The Vow, Passion), there’s a lot more to recommend as the movie twists and turns down its path showing the consequences of Tim’s actions or lack thereof. Though leaping through time has its advantages, there are drawbacks that will alter the course of Tim’s life and everyone he loves…leading to a three hanky finale that brims with the situational warmth that Curtis wields so slyly. The film crept up on me to be quite touching, and I predict many audiences will feel the same way.
Gleeson is a wonderful, affable lead that provides exactly the kind of shaggy dog charisma the role would have been lacking without. He even brings out the best in McAdams who can sometimes feel like she’s giving a McPerformance – that is, something highly processed and not all together good for you. Her defenses are down here and she’s grounded nicely by her costar and the convincing screenplay. Nighy is always up for a devil-may-care performance but he tightens up his usual loosey goosey act to surprisingly affecting results. As is the norm, Curtis has a knack for his strong casting of not only the leads but his various supporting roles. Whether they are onscreen for the whole movie or just a passerby, there’s always an interesting face you want to know more about.
Fans of romantic dramadies would be advised to make the time to catch this in the theater because there’s a certain warmth that lends itself well to seeing the movie on the big screen. Even if these types of films normally aren’t your bag, About Time is a worthwhile watch thanks to a script with real heart and performances to match.