About Time Review

Posted: November 22, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

With my reviews of Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, I think I’ve made my thoughts on writer/director Richard Curtis pretty clear.  That in mind, I hate to sound like a broken record when discussing his latest film, About Time.  Even more, I hate to use a phrase that’s considered cliché and blurb-like, but if Mr. Curtis has taught me anything through the tones of his films, it’s that a little sincerity never hurt anybody — and love, actually, is all around.  So, it’s with a sense of delight that I say About Time is not only another wonderful little movie that cements Richard Curtis as our foremost romantic comedy go-to guy, but it also happens to be the most feel-good movie I’ve seen so far this year.  And, I don’t know about you, but in the midst of so much cynicism and dreariness that seems to have crept their way into most of today’s movies, a nice dose of optimism is certainly a welcome thing.

About Time is about Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), the son of a wealthy family who, once he’s 21 and about to embark on a life of his own, is informed by his dad (Bill Nighy) that the men in the family possess the unique ability to travel in time.  In order to do so, one has to simply go into a dark and enclosed space, clench their hands into fists, think of the moment they most want to go, and they’ll find themselves there.  Tim naturally reacts skeptically, but when he finds himself reliving the previous night of New Years’ Eve, he gets turned into a believer.  Once Tim is off on his own and sharing a flat in London with a grizzled playwright (Tom Hollander) who seems to be in a state of perpetual cynicism, he shares a literal blind date with an American woman living in the city named Mary (Rachel McAdams), and instantly, a spark is sensed between the two of them.  However, circumstances prevent Tim from getting in touch with Mary again.  Lucky for him, he has a newfound ability, which he decides to use to better his love life by capturing the heart of Mary.  Now, by this point, there are no doubt those of you out there who are thinking, “Well, that’s just squandering such a great ability!”  But I’ve yet to outline the caveats of Tim’s power, and they are thus: only the men in the family have the time-travelling gene, they can only travel backwards in time — not forwards — and only back to various moments in their own lives.  As Tim’s dad states, “We can’t go back and kill Hitler, for example.”  And finally, if you have a child eventually, then travelling back to any moment before they were born will cause a different child to be born, and the original to be lost.  On the bright side, the issue of The Butterfly Effect appears not to affect them.  But as Tim discovers as his life goes on, even with so few rules to his ability, that doesn’t mean he can always avoid unintended consequences.

I make no illusions or excuses concerning the fact that I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, and I know for a fact that’s why I normally respond to Richard Curtis’s work so well, and why I think About Time is charming as hell.  Curtis himself clearly doesn’t try to pretend to be anything else, either, so in a way, we’ve always been kindred spirits.  As a writer/director, he just has something about his style that makes the most tired romantic movie tropes feel fresh, and as a romantic always in search of well-told stories in the genre, I really appreciate that.  All the wit, humor and unabashed sentimentalism that I’ve come to expect from the man is here in spades, along with a level of emotion that helps About Time feel like Richard Curtis’s most accomplished work yet, but I have such an affection for Love Actually, that I’ll ask you to please not hold me to that statement.

I don’t know whether to attribute it to the writing or the performances themselves, but the acting here is very sincere.  As the film’s leading man, Domhnall Gleeson may stumble a bit out of the gate, especially since Tim’s infatuation with Mary at first has slightly unsettling stalker-ish undertones, but once he does strike up a real relationship with McAdams’ Mary and said relationship starts to blossom, Gleeson becomes more natural and likable.  The fact that Tim may seem a little too perfect of a boyfriend/mate is made more bearable by the charm that Gleeson develops as the film goes on.  Plus, the script gives the character some good complications to deal with, and Gleeson appropriately embodies that “new-to-this” quality that keeps Tim grounded.  Rachel McAdams is immensely likable as Mary.  Granted, McAdams isn’t exactly a stranger to romantic material, but here, there’s really no denying she has it if you give her good stuff to work with.  And if anything, between movies like The Time Traveler’s Wife, Midnight in Paris and now About Time, we’ve confirmed that McAdams definitely has a type: time travelers.  And then we have Bill Nighy, giving a performance that’s so downright wonderful, you’ll wish you had him as a relative by the time the movie is over.  A movie like About Time doesn’t require complicated characters, just charming ones, and these are certainly that because most importantly, the script really does make you care about them.

This is perhaps Richard Curtis at his most sincere and sentimental, and if you’ve enjoyed any of his work up until now, odds are you’ll enjoy About Time.  I really like what he does with the time travel aspect of the story.  He keeps things as simple as he can, obviously trying to avoid the typical kinds of brain-boiling questions that come with the idea of time travel.  However, upon reflecting on the movie, there are a few questions to be raised from the way the story plays out in certain scenes.  Not only that, but it seems like there are also a few occasions where the movie sort of contradicts its own rules.  It just goes to show that even when you think you’ve simplified the problem, you really haven’t.

But the focus here isn’t on the time travel aspect, it’s on the people, and that’s where About Time succeeds, and that’s why the film is worth your time.

***1/2 /****

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Michael. It’s definitely a sentimental piece of rom-dram, but it pulled too many punches for me to go along with.

  2. Nice review. I just recently wrote a blog about ‘Pirate Radio’ clapping for Richard Curtis. I better watch this one!

    • moviebuff801 says:

      If you enjoy Richard Curtis, you should like this. I haven’t seen Pirate Radio since it was in theaters. Maybe I should check it out again.

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