About Time

© 2013 Ray Wong

At first glance (and as the trailers would tell us), About Time is a romance with a time-traveling twist. In reality, it is really a love story — and not just about romantic love. It is a fable about love and life in general.

After his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) gets the surprise news of his life from his father (Bill Nighy): all the men in their family have the ability to time travel. While most men in his family tended to misuse the super power (for money, for fame, etc.), Dad has found the secret, but he wants Tim to figure it out for himself. For Tim, everything has always been about love.

Tim eventually moves to London to start a new life as an adult, and he meets beautiful and kind Mary (Rachel McAdams). When he accidentally erases Mary from his life because he used his time travel to help his friend Harry (Tom Hollander), Tim time-travels again to fix his misfortune. While Tim succeeds in getting Mary back and their lives on track again, he discovers that his time traveling has consequences; and that he cannot make someone fall in love with him, and that he cannot fix all his problems. As Dad is dying from cancer, Dad delivers one last advice to Tim on the secret of happiness.

Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina) is quite a chameleon as an actor. As Levin in Anna Karenina, Gleeson was handsome and rugged at the love-sick farmer. As Tim, however, Gleeson looks incredibly young (playing a 21-year-old, no less), naive and — once again — love struck. Gleeson has an ease to his performance, exuding a nervous, shy and uncertain lad who, with a little bit of practice, can achieve great things. Gleeson’s non-nonsense performance is the reason why we like Tim so much to follow his bizarre journey through time and life.

This is the second time Rachel McAdams (Passion) appears in a “time traveling” love story, and this time it is a much lighter role as the object of Tim’s affection. McAdams excels in being the sweet girl next door, and her chemistry with Gleeson is just right to pull off the relationship, which can sometimes seem a bit thin. Bill Nighy (The World’s End) is fantastic as Dad — a whimsical, humorous and yet warm and lovely family man.

The supporting cast is strong with Lydia Wilson (Never Let Me Go) as Tim’s free-sprit sister, Lindsay Duncan (Last Passenger) as Tim’s strong and resilient mother, and Tom Hollander (The Invisible Woman) as a self-absorbed, narcissistic playwright.

Written and directed by Richard Curtis (War Horse), the film definitely has a light, whimsical fable feel to it. Even the characters seem to be more quirky than usual. Curtis decides to keep the story focused on love itself (as “time traveling” stories can go in so many different directions). The result is somewhat unbelievable at first (who, while processing the ability of time traveling, would not at least try to get a better job or a tip in the stock market?) But once we suspend the disbelief, the story gains on us.

It’s not to say the plot and characters are without their conventional and trite trappings. There are some rather blatant cliches; and plot holes are all but inevitable in a story about “time traveling.”  For example, one of the rules is that one cannot travel past the birth of a child, and yet at one point, Tim and his father travel to a time before his sister was born (or any of his own children). Such inconsistency, however, does not mar the general quality of the story, which really isn’t about time traveling anyway.

In fact, time traveling becomes almost a metaphor, as Tim continues to learn and understand what life and love mean to him. I think that’s the sweetest thing about this movie — it has a very sweet, almost innocent look at life and love, and I find that rather refreshing in today’s cynical world. And that may be the film’s biggest flaw — just not cynical and bitter enough for today’s audiences. For me, it’s about time we have something so pure and fun, sometimes almost magical.

Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Richard Cordery, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie
Director: Richard Curtis
Writers: Richard Curtis
Distributor: Universal
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content
Running Time: 123 minutes


Script - 7
Performance - 8
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 8
Editing - 8
Production - 7

Total - 7.7 out of 10.0 

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