About Time - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
RICHARD Curtis adds time travel to his rom-com palette in About Time, a generally amiable, sometimes preachy and predictably sentimental offering from the man behind Four Weddings & A Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually.
Yet perhaps the most endearing thing about what could be the director’s final film is its ability to surprise – for although it is marketed as a romance, there’s a second half to the film that goes beyond the usual boy-meets-girl scenario that delves into fathers and sons and the nature of fate and missed opportunities.
The film picks up as Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21 and is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that he has the ability to time travel. This doesn’t extend to history altering abilities such as killing Hitler, but rather changing the immediate future surrounding his own life. All he has to do is find a dark room, clench his fists and think back to the minutes or seconds before the moment he wants to change.
Initially sceptical, Tim eventually puts his ‘gift’ to good use by helping himself out in love, particularly when endeavouring to get the girl of his dreams (Rachel McAdams). But as he grows older and life becomes more complex, his good deed time changing exploits threaten to have wider repercussions and Tim is forced to make some important decisions about what he wants from his own life, even if it comes at the expense of the happiness of others.
Given the direction that About Time takes, it’s fair to describe the film as one of Curtis’s darker, more mature offerings to date. The film is thought-provoking and occasionally very poignant, particularly during its tear-duct baiting final third. But that only makes it more satisfying, if a little preachy and borderline sanctimonious during its final conclusions.
Earlier, Curtis fans (especially his female followers) will be pleased to hear that the mix of romance and comedy is nicely intact. Gleeson does his best affable Brit impression, drawing inevitable (and favourable) comparisons to a young Hugh Grant, yet bringing plenty of charisma of his own to suggest that he has a bright future as a leading man. He is the film’s shining light and a constantly winning presence.
McAdams is typically sweet as the love interest, if under-served script-wise, while Nighy delivers his best performance in some time as the type of father you’d love to have as your own. His scenes with Gleeson, in particular, will resonate.
Support from the likes of Tom Hollander (as a grouchy friend), Margot Robbie (as an unrequited love interest) and Lydia Wilson (as a troubled sister) is a little hit and miss (and similarly under-written), while some of the time travel elements fail to add up to close scrutiny (as so many time travelling devices do).
But fortunately such foibles don’t detract from the overall package, which succeeds in keeping you entertained (and often amused) for long periods.
Hence, for all the obvious perceptions surrounding the film, audiences of both sexes may well be surprised by how much About Time has to offer. It’s far from a masterpiece, and has a lot of problems, but if it is to be Curtis’s farewell to the movies, it’s an enjoyable, even thought-provoking way to bow out.
Running time: 2hrs 3mins
UK Release Date: September 4, 2013