Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Domnhall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Tom Hollander, Will Merrick
Plot: When Tim (Gleeson) turns 21, he discovers he has the power to move back in time, a talent he uses to get the girl of his dreams.
The movie opens calmly outlining the Lake family and all the characters we need to know. Tim Lake, our Curtis stock character (awkward, British – a ginger Hugh Grant, if you will) is as much as a failure with the ladies, as we expect from this kind of movie. When he turns 21, his eccentric father reveals that all the males in the family have the power to travel back in time. With this new bit of knowledge, paired with the arrival of beautiful Kate Moss fan, Mary, Tim sets off on a personal mission to finally get the girl. However, despite having all of these powers, life still throws some unexpected tragedies at him, from all angles.
One thing I noted about About Time was the fact it wasn’t really about loving the girl, as most Curtis movies revolve around, but loving life. Of course, there is the trademark romance thrown into this movie; there would be an uproar if there wasn’t. In fact, the first half of this movie revolves around the chase to get the girl, complete with the awkward first date, the euphoric first kiss and the prolonged romantic scene in the rain. But ‘About Time’ isn’t content with just being about relationships. The true conflict for Tim is his evolution into an adult and how, despite having this power that gives him all the time in the world, time always finds a way of running out.
Richard Curtis is going to fill cinemas due to the fact that we all know what we are getting into. His earlier films pretty much outline the kind of film this is going to be: ‘Love Actually, Four Weddings and Funeral’, ‘Notting Hill’. This might even dissuade some, but personally these films aren’t as hopelessly romantic as people make them out to be. In some senses they are, but they always have more than one reason to come to watch these films. As the film opens, I got the impression I was watching a Nicholas Sparks film, but with a secret weapon that Curtis always uses: he is actually funny. While films like ‘The Notebook’ wear romance like a Boy Scouts’ badge, Richard Curtis enjoys making us laugh, just as much as he likes making us cry and go ‘awww’. This helps the movie a lot, because rather than sitting through two hours of ‘slush’, this feels more like a celebration of British cinema.
The best thing about this movie is the cast. Almost everyone puts in their best performances. Domnhall Gleeson was one of the fore runners for the Doctor Who job and I totally get why. He kind of feels slightly alien to everyone else in the film, which works perfectly for this fish out of water story. He is instantly likeable and despite having this god-like power, his motives never get away from the audience. His sister, Kit Kat, played by little-known actress, Lydia Wilson, is terrific and one of the more interesting characters of the piece. Then we have the bit parts, which are all fantastic in their own rights: the best mates, the weird uncle and the brilliantly foul-mouthed play-wright, Harry. But of course, the best actor here, and the one reason I came to watch this movie, was Bill Nighy. Every moment he is on screen is filled with such energy and power, proving Nighy to be one of the leading figures in British cinema. He has all the best lines, making ordinary feel like the best thing in the world. Curtis knows how to use the actor as well, so the pair of them bounce off each other, really bringing life to the film when he begins to slow down.
However, then along comes Rachel McAdams to ruin everything. Once again, McAdams has bagged the role of ‘marriage material’ girl and does nothing new with the part. She is portrayed as the essence of perfection, the supposed figure that no man is able to resist. Her one flaw is clumsy, as shown by the fact she trips up once when we first meet her and that this is meant to make her a relatable person. This movie is filled with flawed characters and all of them are interesting, because of their little errors. Then we have McAdams, who feels so bland in comparison. The moment the relationship gets past the rocky beginning phase her story gets so boring and slows the movie to a grinding halt. The first time the leading lady walks onto the screen there should be a moment of magnificence, and it is clear that Curtis tries to do this here, but because McAdams has done this moment so many times now, it doesn’t have that breathlessness effect that the director was going for. I personally believe it is time for someone else to have a go at the perfect girl role.
The time travel part of the film, sadly, grew into a catch 22. On one hand, it was the unique selling point that made you watch this rom-com, rather than any of the other ones floating about. However, there were times when it got into the way of the story. There is a moment in the final act, where ‘About Time’ feels the need to tackle the issues of time travel, but it doesn’t really spend enough time on it. Sure, we want to get back to the romance and main plot, but the time travel parts of the film feel rushed and badly explained. When Bill Nighy recounts the rules of time travel, especially the rule concerning child-birth, it is done so badly that we don’t really understand the film’s logic. On the other hand, these little bits do make the finale all the more touching. Sure, the ending is a little predictable – it was always going to end like that – but it will still break your heart, only to be saved moments later by an uplifting moral.
Final Verdict: A strong addition to the Richard Curtis collection, although it’s not as well-rounded a success as his earlier, more famous hits.