Directed by Richard Curtis
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
When awkward charmer Tim (Gleeson) turns 21 he inherits the ability to travel back in time within his own timeline (a gift peculiar to the men in his family), using it to make his life “the way you want it to be” as his father (a wonderfully windswept and interesting Bill Nighy) advises him. After getting to grips with his new talent, Tim uses it to fall in love with the girl of his dreams (Rachel McAdams), creatively overcoming the slight wrinkle of having to meet her first and hope she falls for him too. As Tim uses his gift to tinker with destiny he quickly discovers that, even for time travellers, actions have consequences; sometimes funny, sometimes sad, occasionally irreversible.
“Existentialist” is not a word you would usually associate with rom-coms but the latest from Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually writer/director Richard Curtis is just that, funny enough to entertain and thoughtful enough to provoke. Whether Curtis is adopting a more philosophical approach is hard to say but About Time is a refreshingly reflective departure from his earlier, frothier films.
In fairness Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral were pretty harmless for the most part making for what has since become a model for British romantic comedies, their ruder excesses and trendy irreverence never really progressing from sitcom cliches. Not content with merely pandering to the public, About Time, by contrast, challenges us to reflect on a few uncomfortable home-truths.
Less inclined to cling to the superficial tendencies of its predecessors, despite being sunk firmly in the bohemian bedrock of its modern London setting, About Time occasionally retreats to the beautiful country quiet of England’s idyllic Cornish coast, offering some vivid and vibrant vignettes of family life. A wet but happy wedding party braving the British summer in the pouring rain; a charming afternoon tea party on the beach, suggesting family and putting family first is at the heart of Curtis’ message here.
About Time takes a bold step in the right direction for anyone looking for a bit more from their rom-coms. The plot deliberately takes a broader view of the common experience of loving and being loved in contemporary Britain amid the ups and downs of modern life, with a welcome focus on the often neglected father/son dynamic, feeling weightier without getting heavy.
About Time is, quite literally, about time, wistfully wondering whether or not we really make the most of it. Gently warning that the road shouldn’t distract from the journey, Curtis’ script encourages an awareness of where we want to be going, where we’re should be going and where we’re actually going.
Verdict: Practicing what it preaches, the film is most alive and most entertaining when it pays attention to the details of its own story. Encouraging us to do the same and inviting us to read between Curtis’ carefully crafted lines, About Time will remind you to savour the simple joy of simple joys. There is one moderate sex scene with fleeting female nudity and a few mild sex references.
Ronan Wright blogs about films from Belfast at Filmplicity.