Here I am, trying to be the manliest macho-man I can be – but writer/director Richard Curtis makes that appearance so damn hard to uphold sometimes (despite my lack of muscles, short stature, nerdy sensibilities – etc). Having a secret soft spot for such films as Love Actually and Pirate Radio, I publicly scoffed at the idea of having to evaluate some silly romantic endeavor about time travel, but in the dark privacy of the theater, I could yet again be whimsically enchanted by Richard Curtis’ inspiring grasp on life – and could even let myself get choked up without the judgement of others. Damn you Richard Curtis, getting me in touch with my feelings and making me all vulnerable and shit!
Part romantic dramedy, part provocative dissection of life’s never-ending beauty, About Time tells the story of a family where all the men possess a unique skill – they can travel back in time. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), the youngest male of the family, learns about his newfound talent after turning 21, thinking his father (Bill Nighy) is playing a silly trick on him. Go in a dark place, clench his fists, and think about a time he’d like to revisit? Tim laughs and obeys his father’s orders, expecting to go back downstairs after the practical joke fails – but instead finds himself reliving a recent New Year’s Eve party where he blew his opportunity at a midnight kiss. As Tim’s life goes on, he uses his powers to help those close to him, but really just wants to find love. That’s when he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), and then doesn’t, and then does again – playing with time can be a tricky thing to master.
While you’d expect me to launch into a rant about Rachel McAdams playing an absolutely perfect “girl next door” character, it’s Domhnall Gleeson who struck me first – this charming, awkward boy who not only has to deal with having a superpower, but also has to control his own quirky tendencies. Gleeson approaches the character from a comically inept mindset first and foremost, exposing the core of a confused soul just trying to not mess up too badly (like most of us), but with each journey back in time, Domhnall is permitted to gain a little confidence, transforming into a wiser, more confident man. Already being hilariously relatable, Gleeson also displays a sprawling emotional range, grasping the tonally perfect note for every scene.
McAdams supplies her own homely and genuine charm, connecting with Domhnall Gleeson on croon-worthy levels. It’s hard not to fall in love with Rachel ourselves, as she stammers on in front of her parents or bribes Domhnall through a sexual game, but her interactions never become overly “Hollywood,” as Richard Curtis scripts a heartwarming love story between characters Tim and Mary. Don’t think it’s a one-sided relationship though, because Rachel McAdams provides an absolutely stunning performance through realism – giving audiences a character they can truly believe.
The funny thing is, not only has time travel been dealt with before, but it’s also been dealt with in the romantic genre (Rachel McAdams’ The Time Traveler’s Wife). Richard Curtis’ script thankfully doesn’t take advantage of this strange twist to a ridiculous extent, and only uses the backwards jump whenever truly necessary. Honestly, About Time sounded like a terribly hammy comedy waiting to happen, but Richard never loses sight of the underlying themes of love, embracing life, and enjoying the time we have. Much like the lessons he wishes to impart upon viewers, Curtis’ script focuses on what’s important and doesn’t let anything dilute those ideas – providing a comical yet heavy “thinking man’s” tale of heartwarming proportions.
About Time will have you smitten by googly-eyed lovers, giggling at adorable children, hugging those you love, and embracing a life of fulfillment. While it does run a bit long, and this is ultimately one of the film’s only downfalls, Tim’s journey is built on a strong foundation of phenomenal supporting actors (Billy Nighy!), comedy that doesn’t insult, romance that doesn’t become cheesy, and an overall theme that more people could/should embrace. No one captures the intoxicating beauty in everyday life like Richard Curtis can – choking up even the most unlikely of viewers.
Now someone get me my copy of The Raid: Redemption.
About Time captures the beauty in our hectic, everyday lives that we sometimes take for granted - without becoming a goofy tale about a man who can travel back in time. Get out your favorite hanky, because Richard Curtis once again tugs at our heartstrings in all the right ways.