Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander
It’s hard not to imagine that somewhere in Richard Curtis’s wardrobe, hidden amongst his endless array of suits & pullovers, is a t-shirt with the words ‘I’m with Cupid’ emblazoned on the front. His predictable, romantically comic fairy tales have been equally responsible for melted hearts and nauseous stomachs for years. Curtis’s formula is a well-worn yarn of the incomprehensibly wealthy & bumbling English gent, supported by eccentric family & friends, pining for, chasing and eventually getting the girl of his dreams, thus living happily ever after. About Time contains such a story, but mercifully doesn’t focus on it; here Curtis draws from a wider range of themes that make for a more effecting & more enjoyable movie.
Having just turned 21, Tim is told by his father that the men of their family have the innate ability to travel in time. Being a youthfully shy young man when it comes to the opposite sex, Tim decides that his newfound talent could be used to help him land a girlfriend. Having relocated from his Cornish family home to The Big Smoke, Tim eventually meets Mary whom he determinedly begins to woo, using his time-travelling skills to put right any wrongs that occur in their courtship.
Tim’s Time-Lord abilities may feel innovative, but as the film wears on they’re more of a McGuffin & in terms of narrative it’s so far, so standard. However, after only an hour Curtis has his central couple married and expecting their first child. You expect a last minute narrative device to potentially jeopardize Tim’s happy ever after, but none arrives. Instead Curtis wrong-foots us all by revealing About Time’s central relationship to not be our smitten lovers, but that of a father and son. What follows is a profound tale of family & of living in the moment, complete with a drunk Tom Hollander as an unashamedly and hilariously honest godfather.
After the over-familiarity of the opening hour, in which Domhnall Gleeson & Rachel McAdams share their fair amount of awkward meetings & cheesy dialogue, the more tender scenes shared between Gleeson and his father, Bill Nighy, are genuinely moving. The chemistry shared by the actors feels surprisingly real, meaning that as we move in to potentially melodramatic territory, the story remains affecting & poignant; any tears shed by the audience are real, not forced.
In his first major film role, Gleeson is always warm & likeable, even if he does seem to occasionally be channeling Hugh Grant. His comic timing is perfect and About Time succeeds in having more than its fair share of comically brilliant moments; the highlight being a scene in which Tim is flung, head first (literally in terms of conversation), in to a meeting with Mary’s parents.
The first hour may scream Curtis cliché, but it’ll make you chuckle more than Love Actually managed to do for its entire duration and will reward you with a second half that will surprise & move you in equal measure. If this really is to be Curtis’s final film as a director, then at least he finishes stronger than he started.