About Time: Movie Review
Cast: Domnhall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Lindsay Duncan
Director: Richard Curtis
Is About Time Richard Curtis’ directorial swan song?
The man who gave us such saccharine treats as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, Notting Hill and launched the career of the foppish Hugh Grant is stepping down?
Say it ain’t so – but it appears to be with About Time, the latest rom-com sap-fest from the Working Title fold.
So, it’s back once more to Curtis’ idealistic Britain, where London is never gloomy and the English folk eat alfresco on the Cornish coast whatever the weather. So far, so quaint and so Hollywood stereotyped….
Domnhall Gleeson (one of the Weasley brothers from the Harry Potter series) plays Tim, who discovers from his father on his 21st birthday that all the men in the family possess the ability to travel in time. All they have to do is enter a darkened room, clasp their hands together and think of the moment they wish to return to – et voila, a second chance from within their own lifetime beckons.
How does Tim use this great gift?
Well, as Tim decries initially, “For me - it was always going to be about love” and he turns his power towards ensuring that Mary (a rather bland and wishy-washy Rachel McAdams) becomes his beau.
But Tim gradually learns that this power isn’t to be abused – and despite having every chance in the world to change things, not everything can be changed for the better and some life lessons need to be learned.
About Time is exactly what you’d expect from the Richard Curtis romcom stable. If you’re an old cynic, you’ll gradually feel the roof of your gums as you angrily gnash your teeth away as the celluloid sugar overload pours out in waves at you; otherwise, you’ll lap up every moment and laugh at every English eccentricity, ignoring the fact that Curtis is plundering from his own stockpile and trademarks to bring you a very polished, yet mawkish and sentimental film. (In fact, you can play Curtis bingo as well – as characters appear to have wondered in from other films he’s penned)
Gleeson really impresses in his first lead – even if he does have overtones of Hugh Grant’s patented stutter, awkwardness and vulnerability down to a tee; there’s something endearing about his gradual coming of age and realising that despite living each day again, it’s the extraordinary ordinariness which makes us all so special. (In case you didn’t already know and needed film to tell you otherwise)
Likewise, Nighy turns in another great character role, bringing a subtlety and nuanced heart to the father figure. It’s a performance which may have many (even the hard hearted) wanting to call their parents for a quick catch up afterwards but it’s never one that descends too far into sentimental mush, despite the plot going darker at the end.
Tom Hollander deserves some praise too as the acerbic bitter twist in this Brit sci-fi Groundhog Day as a playwright around to dispense the perfect oneliner to punctuate the overly tender moments. (Don’t dwell too much on the time travel element – it’s there to service the narrative rather than be explored and once the novelty of some romantic mishaps are explored, it takes a back seat until the poignant end.)
Did it win me over? Not in the slightest, due to the fact it borrows heavily and indulges Curtis’ own back catalogue; every moment I could see coming from a mile off and there was not one single moment where there was a surprise waiting for me. It’s a meditation on regret and the reality of growing up not a complex look at the mores and dilemmas faced by someone with great power – it’s crowd-pleasing in the extreme and hits every note that Curtis would have wanted to this time around.
All in all, About Time is entirely predictable and utter feel good fluff as the overload of cute builds to its climax; Curtis’ schmaltzy swansong is exactly what you’d expect from the man (even down to the mood setting generic piano music) and thanks to a more coherent, if overlong, script, it comes together well as the consequences of change and the relationships we share are put under scrutiny.
About Time is perfectly pleasant cinematic stuff, not life-changing, but not too soul-destroying in its saccharine assault on the senses.