‘About Time:’ All Nighy Long

I never should have doubted writer/director Richard Curtis (Love Actually), but the trailer for About Time was just atrocious. It painted the movie as Nicholas Sparks meets The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Harry Potter (because, British people). But on the contrary, About Time is a modest, lovely story about embracing the time we have and the people with whom we spend it.

At the age of 21, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, quite, adorably British) is told that the men in his family can travel back in time. His father, the ever-perfect Bill Nighy, explains, in his signature, cheeky way, that all Tim has to do is head to a dark room, close his eyes, clench his fists, and think of the moment. After some jostling about, he will open his eyes and be there. He can only go back to moments in his own life, but he actually can, changing the course of events.  When his father asks him what monumental thing Tim will use his power for, he says at this point in his life, he wants a girlfriend. And so it begins.

One night, Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), and she’s immediately the girl. Time traveling high jinks ensue, in which he predictably perfects his Mary-wooing ways. However, unpredictably, these manipulations seem neither creepy nor like an unfair advantage. Instead, somehow, Tim is just a time-traveling guy, so clearly in love, trying to make the girl of his dreams the happiest he can make her. Rachel McAdams is very cute without being cutesy, as she is normally. A lot of that has to do with how her character, Mary, is written, as someone (very much like myself), who is insecure about a lot of things except her love of sleeping. She nearly botches Tim’s marriage proposal because she’s too comfortable in bed, a specific incident that I am almost positive I will one day replicate.

Predictably, time travel cannot save Tim from experiencing pain. But, again, unpredictably, Curtis accounts for the story being somewhat predictable by adding a level of awareness to the characters, thus making the sequence of events in the movie momentous and educational in ways other than the obvious ones. For instance, the lesson isn’t, “you can’t rely on time travel to make your life good.” It’s, “you don’t need time travel, so use it to enhance what time has already given you.” This is a world in which the characters know there are consequences of time travel; they realize they will make mistakes. But life is worth living as it is and, with the help of a nifty little power, even more.

About Time is funny and charming in all the Richard Curtis ways. Tim’s family is the kind of warm and perfect that you want your family to be; so full of love for each other that the only thing left to do to show it is make each other laugh. The supporting characters are quirky and lovable, and it’s all beautiful and wonderful in the end. It’s an admittedly sentimental story with a sense of humor about itself, and Richard Curtis could keep making movies in this vein forever and ever and I’d be more than okay with it.

Grade: A-

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