The latest Richard Curtis movie, writer of Notting Hill, Four Weddings And A Funeral and first directorial effort Love Actually, is called About Time. It’s the story of Tim, a young man who’s blessed with time travel abilities. When his father reveals this secret to him on his 21st birthday, Tim obviously thinks his dad is either joking or out of his mind, but he soon finds out he can indeed travel to times where he himself has been in order to have another go at situations that didn’t turn out so well the first time around. Despite its premise, About Time isn’t a movie about time travel; it’s merely a cute gimmick it uses to full effect to tell a story of love, family and carpe diem.
When you’ve seen a Richard Curtis-penned movie before, you know what to expect from About Time: a sympathetic but socially awkward male lead falls in love with a girl and tries his best to win her heart, but in order to do so he has to overcome some obstacles along the way. While that’s part of the film, About Time also explores family dynamics, shifting gears here and there to tell the story of a man and his father, instead of only being concerned with a man and the love of his life. Both storylines work wonderfully because lead actor Domhnall Gleeson does a fantastic job with the material, as do his co-star. Gleeson is a vulnerable, charming and passionate presence, and he really makes the time travel aspect of the film work because he sells the human element and desirability of his gift. Rachel McAdams also shines as the girl he’s after: her character is smart, funny and insecure, quite layered thanks to her take on what’s essentialy an underwritten love interest. Lastly Bill Nighy is the final main pillar of the film, as Tim’s dad. While his performance is undeniably very Bill Nighy’ish, his chemistry with Gleeson and his vulnerability and warmth really sell another somewhat one-note character. So much so that the movie could actually make grown men cry.
And let’s be honest here: no one’s going to see a romantic comedy for in-depth character studies, but to be touched, moved an entertained. In that regard About Time succeeds effortlessly, and it offers people exactly what they come to see a Richard Curtis movie for. One problem that does hamper the experience is the fact the film is overlong though. The movie really takes its time (no pun intended), but loses some of its momentum and spark because of it. The addition of a narrator also doesn’t help matters: at times Gleeson’s voice-over tells you exactly what you should take away from the movie, which is quite clear enough without the inclusion of this trite mechanic.
About Time makes you laugh, swoon and maybe even cry a little, using the tested Richard Curtis recipe. It’s a flawed but solid romcom that tries to do something different by using the time travel gimmick. It all works well enough, but a Love Actually this is not. 7/10