It’s About Time Richard Curtis got back to his rom-comming ways. While he may have written Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and given us The Boat That Rocked (known to US readers as Pirate Radio) it is not since 2003’s Love Actually that Curtis has written and directed a fully-fledged romantic comedy. Considering his knack for being the king of the British rom-com, which normally sees a foppish haired protagonist (Hugh Grant) trying to win the heart of an out of his league American girl, Curtis’ return to the genre is a very welcome one. About Time is no exception to his modus operandi with one very clever sci-fi-light twist.
The night after his 21st Birthday Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is informed by his Dad (Bill Nighy) that the men of their family have the unique ability of being able to travel in time. Well, back in time specifically and only to a point in time they’ve been before, so no going back and “killing Hitler”. As luck would have it Tim soon finds a use for this new power and that is to win the affections of the too cute to be true Mary (Rachel McAdams). But, while Tim’s new ability allows him to shift aspects of his life in a way that suits him, he soon realises that sometimes all the time in the world can’t make life perfect.
Time travel and romance have a mixed relationship. Ask Bill Murray and he’ll tell you that time travel allowed him to woo Andy McDowell, make of that what you will. Ask Marty McFly how he feels about and he’ll cringe at the memory of his mum hitting on him in Back To The Future. Rachel McAdams on the other hand has form in this area having been seduced by first Eric Bana in The Time Traveler’s Wife and now by a gangly ginger fella in About Time.
All the Curtis traits are here; over-sentimental music, and I-Pod full of cheesy-pop, a tufty haired slightly odd sister, perfectly cut English accents that wouldn’t be out of place on Made In Chelsea and of course a collection of eccentric supporting characters. It’s so wonderfully a Richard Curtis film fans will relish it while haters will find nothing to convert them.
To call the film ‘cute’ would be an understatement. It’s littered with postcard like moments of perfection; the perfect Cornwall summer house, the wedding in the pouring rain, Tom Hollander’s cynical playwright and a love story so perfect you sometimes wonder if any friction is ever going to enter proceedings. In fact if About Time has a flaw it’s that it is often too good to be true. At one point Tim encounters an old flame, in the shape of rising star of The Wolf Of Wall Street Margot Robbie, that he never quite sealed the deal with. She offers him another shot but, having just started to date McAdams’ character he politely turns her down. It opens up an interesting dilemma that Curtis shies away from addressing which is; if you could go back in time, without anyone knowing to have your cake and gobble it all down, is it technically cheating?
Thankfully unlike much of Curtis’ film work, but something always present in his television writing, About Time seems to have a strong message outside of it’s overly purified love. And that’s to live each day without regret and treasure what you have. It may seem corny on the surface but the honest truth is, in a time when people are always looking at what they don’t have it’s About Time someone reminded us to appreciate what we do.
McAdams brings her usual brand of breathy beauty to the role, never feeling out of place as the only American in the cast. Gleeson continues to be a British actor worth keeping an eye on. As Tim he feels nothing short of another Curtis screen alter-ego; utterly charming, bumbling and one of the nicest people ever committed to film. Of course, as is want with any work of Curtis, it is the supporting roles who often steal the show. Hollander is brilliant as the hostile Harry, Joshua McGuire proves a wonder clown with perfect timing but it is Bill Nighy you wish had more screen time. As Tim’s dad he’s both mentor and best friend. Never one to pass judgment or give direct instructions he’s like a slightly drunk Obi Wan Kenobi, wise but without feeling the need to impart his wisdom unless it’s asked for, and even then probably in a brilliantly dry and sarcastic manner.
About Time is the film equivalent of a warm blanket while someone you love hugs you; it’ll make you feel better about life, love and the world in general and for that reason alone Mr. Curtis deserves praise.