Rated R for language and some sexual content
Written and directed by Richard Curtis
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy and more
I’m sick of love triangles. I’m sick of “ugly ducklings” being turned into the models through the magic of the makeover montage. I’m sick of the third-act misunderstandings that could be resolved immediately if everyone would stop being stupid for five minutes.
In short, I’m sick of the modern movie romance formula.
When I find one that breaks it, or even just stretches it out and gives the entire mess a little room to breathe, it feels like a minor miracle. “About Time,” the latest from the same man who brought the world “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Love, Actually,” is a refreshing treat for those of us who have forgotten how much we like a good love story. It’s sweet, thoughtful, funny, occasionally heartbreaking, and just happens to have a little time travel in it.
Yes, time travel. Though the trope has spent plenty of its own time trapped in stock romance formulas – lovers separated by centuries, oh-so-convenient reincarnation – here it’s used more as a tool of intense self-reflection. Would we really be happier if an incident in our past turned out differently? How much do we balance other people’s happiness with our own? In the long run, what’s really worth spending our time on?
Though the science fiction underpinnings of the time travel are completely ignored – it’s treated more like the ability to whistle than a marvel – the philosophical ramifications of a person being able to change any moment of their life to suit them are fully explored. It made me think in ways a romance hasn’t in a very long time, which was incredibly refreshing.
Even better, there’s far more at stake than mere love at first sight. There is that, sort of – this is a romance, after all – but the storyline stretches across years. It gives equal weight to children, siblings, parents, and all those complicated moments when you chose to stay in love with the person sleeping next to you. The average life is a dozen different stories all woven together, and “About Time” chooses to celebrate all of them.
Here, the center of all those lives is a sweet, awkward, kind, funny man known only as Tim. Played beautifully by Domhnall Gleason (known to American audiences as Bill Weasley from the “Harry Potter” movies), Tim manages to be both wonderfully flawed and yet still free of the contrived stupidity that plagues so many romantic leads. He’s entirely relatable and excellent company, both anchoring the movie and serving as its heart. Rachel McAdams is good and Bill Nighy is as wonderful as always, but the movie belongs to Gleason.
By the end, I wanted to travel back in time and immediately watch the whole thing again. When you find a minor miracle, you want to savor it for as long as you can.