Written and Directed by Richard Curtis
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsey Duncan and Tom Hollander
Rated R, 123 minutes
Sometimes it’s easy to feel cynical when approaching a romantic comedy. There is a predisposition towards the material that always seems to result in so many forced morals and fake catharsis that it’s hard not to roll your eyes every time a trailer for one pops up. The same thing crossed my mind when viewing the trailer for Richard Curtis’ new film, About Time, but, lo and behold, the movie pleasantly surprises in how touching and funny it can be… as long as you don’t think of the ethical ramifications of the main character’s actions.
Domhnall Gleeson (of Harry Potter fame, and son of Brendan) stars as Tim, a perpetually bewildered yet charming British man who, on his twenty-first birthday, is told by his father (Bill Nighy, in an excellent turn) that he, along with all other male members of his family, can travel back in time. There are some rules for this, however, most notable of which being that he can only travel back to points of time that he has already lived through. He decides to use this gift to land him a girlfriend, and eventually meets Mary (Rachel McAdams). The two fall in love and we follow Tim’s life throughout the years and the ways in which he uses his power.
The film surprisingly doesn’t play like a comedy as much as it does a James L. Brooks type dramedy with a pseudo-science fiction bent. Not to say the film isn’t funny, in several spurts there are some hilarious moments, but it tries its damnedest to wring as many tears from its audience any chance it gets. It’s a wonder that it doesn’t feel as manipulative as it is and settles into a mostly enjoyable ride.
That being said, it needs to be said that this film primarily deals in the character of Tim, and by extension his father, and very much marginalizes Rachel McAdams contributions to the story. Outside of a few scenes where we get her family, she isn’t really important outside of her involvement with Tim. The actress does her best with the material and is a fairly likable character, all things considered, but it gets hard to truly appreciate the heartfelt tone some times given the fact that Tim manipulates his gift to win her heart. The movie could have done well to perhaps bring up a little ethical dilemma towards Tim’s actions because, as is, they are all justified. Also, as a little coda of sorts, some elements of the story do not jive if you think about it too much.
About Time is a surprisingly welcome addition to the genre of time-travel films (far better than McAdams last time-travelling spouse movie). It works as a prolonged piece of schmaltz, but those in search of something a little more will be disappointed.
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