By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
About Time (Universal)
Rated R for language and some sexual content.
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Richard Cordery, Joshua McGuire, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie, Will Merrick, Vanessa Kirby, Tom Hughes.
Written and directed by Richard Curtis.
My biggest complaint about romantic comedies these days is that they are seldom, if ever, very funny or romantic. Most follow a tried and true formula of sticking a few beautiful people together, writing a few jokes, and hoping for a little Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan chemistry. One fellow who seems to break the rom-com rules is Richard Curtis, then man behind Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and Funeral, Notting Hill, Love, Actually and a few other favorites. Curtis' latest film is About Time, the story of a young man who is able to travel through time to win the heart of a woman he loves.
Set in modern-day England, Domhnall Gleason stars as Tim, a young man whose father (Bill Nighy) informs him of a talent held by all male descendents in the family- the ability to move through time simply by going to a dark room, clenching the fists, closing the eyes, and concentrating on the past time they want to visit. Tim gives the trick a few tries in an attempt to win the heart of his sister's beautiful friend and house guest Charlotte (Margot Robbie), with little success.
Tim eventually meets a beautiful American named Mary (Rachel McAdams) and instantly falls in love. When things don't go as he'd hoped, Tim uses his gift to go back in time and fix his mistakes with Mary. Being a good, but shy fellow, Tim repeats many of the same moments to get over his inhibitions. He also uses his gift to help out other people in his life, including his sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) and his grumpy landlord/playwright Harry (Tom Hollander).
As time passes, Tim continues using his gift to make his relationships with family, friends and co-workers a little better, until life catches up with the time he spends. He also discovers the sobering reality that some rules of time travel can't be broken.
About Time is one of the best films of the year, headed by a great cast and complimented by Richard Curtis' gift for clever and poignant dialogue. I especially loved the casting of Gleeson (you may remember his as Bill Weasley in the last two Harry Potter films) in the lead role, who does not fit the mold of most leading men. He has all the wit and timing of Hugh Grant (a Richard Curtis regular), without the iconic looks. I'm glad there's room in films for people who don't look like they stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. Rachel McAdams' character is the only one that seems part of the “rom-com” formula, but that doesn't distract from the overall unique quality of About Time.
Special recognition goes to Bill Nighy as Tim's dad. His performance is often very funny and touching - and it's one of the best I've seen from any actor this year. He should get plenty of post-season nominations for best supporting role.
While some jaded critics and audiences might consider About Time a little too sentimental, most will discover a great film that will touch the hardest of hearts.
About Time has a beautiful message about family, love and the time we have left to “get things right” without the benefit of time travel. It's one of those films that causes one to contemplate their own existence, while invoking tears of joy – from men AND women who see it.
Be sure to bring a few extra tissues.
*Note: About Time is rated R, but the I really can't see the justification for it.