DIR: Richard Curtis WRI: Richard Curtis, PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner. DOP: John Guleserian. ED: Mark Day. DES: John Paul Kelly. CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams
Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is a sensitive man. He adores his sister, worships his father and is desperate to find love. However, Tim has a secret weapon when it comes to romance, time travel. He can fix problematic interactions, re-experience fantastic moments and generally find the woman of his dreams. But, as his father (Bill Nighy) who shares his son’s unusual gift explains, there’s a catch, Tim can only travel back through his own lifetime and not past certain life altering incidents. Nonetheless Tim excitedly tries out his new talent only to be met with unrequited love and general disappointment. That is until he meets the beautiful shy American Mary (Rachel McAdams) his perfect woman who just happens to reciprocate his romantic feelings. However, his relationship with Mary doesn’t run smoothly as an intervention in the life of a friend leads him to lose her number forcing him to travel back in time in order to re-meet her. Tim is then continually motivated by his love for Mary to perfect every moment of their relationship so that they can have a wonderful, regret free life. But as time passes and various events arise Tim realises he can’t change everything, nor protect his loved ones.
About Time marks Curtis’ third outing as a director and in many ways it is his most successful. The usual criticism of Curtis’ work is that it is far too syrupy and sentimental. This film is very sweet, however, the inclusion of time travel manages to some what dilute the saccharine elements and inject life and interest into the story. Nevertheless this is still very much a Curtis fairytale with beautiful shots of Cornwall and London forming the backdrop to Tim and Mary’s romance, which is filled with bumbling interactions and heartfelt declarations. But, it is Tim’s relationship with his father that is the true heart of the film. Nighy and Gleeson have excellent chemistry creating a believable father and son relationship which forms the backbone of the story. Gleeson offers a natural, endearing performance although he occasionally veers into Hugh Grant territory, particularly throughout the voiceover.
However, he has excellent comic timing and can deliver humorous lines with more conviction than other leading men who have appeared in Curtis’ films. Indeed the casting of Gleeson was a wise move as his presence acts as another way to infuse some freshness into the film, which for the most part is populated by Curtis’ usual collaborators, like Bill Nighy, whose performance is highly watchable, if not particularly new or taxing. The rest of the cast represent many of the traditional stereotypes used in romantic comedies particularly British romantic comedies, the sarcastic drunk, the lovable innocent and the trampy best friend. Fortunately these stereotypes are toned down enabling them to actually contribute to the comedic moments. Therefore Curtis has managed to include some devises which mitigate the nostalgic sentimentality and the cheesy characterisation and make a film about time travel that’s more believable than previous work.
However, the film is too long and drawn out repetitively making the same point, that we should remember every moment, however small or mundane. This point was reinforced by saccharine dialogue and a cringe inducing montage of normal people enjoying simple pleasures, which was unnecessary. The time travel theme can only do so much to temper the inclusion of such soppy elements which in the end do make the film overly sweet. These aspects of the film also lead to the plot becoming messy and unwieldy particularly during the films conclusion. About Time would certainly have benefited from a more concise ending.
Nonetheless, Richard Curtis’ film is enjoyable, funny and at times moving. The time altering element and Gleeson’s performance help to curtail the sentimentality but the film is let down by a messy conclusion that allows for too much indulgent sentimentality. Regardless of its flaws romantic comedy fans will still be entertained by this gentle comedy.
Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
About Time is released on 4th September 2013