It’s hard to believe that the release of About Time coincides with the tenth anniversary of the debut of writer-director Richard Curtis’ Love Actually. The man who nailed the romantic film (that also had comedy) with that instant classic is back, and his latest is right up there in quality, feel and scope… but in many ways, is so much more.
Domhnall Gleeson is Tim, and as our film begins it is New Year’s Eve at his parents' house, and there is an off-the-hook fest that unfortunately leaves him with a few regrets -- like not kissing the girl next to him at midnight when she clearly wanted to.
He awakes the next morning and is called into his father’s (Bill Nighy) study in the family home. Dad has news for his son, as this New Year's marks his twenty-first year on the earth, there’s something Tim needs to know about the men in his family: They can travel back in time.
As seen in the About Time trailer, he responds with doubt and thinks his father is having a laugh. But, with dad’s pressing, he discovers how to do it and promptly ducks into the closet and does what he was instructed to do, and bam! He’s at the New Year’s Eve party yet again, and this time… he kisses the girl.
Tim decides to use his power to find love, but it is not so easy.
The story picks up with Tim working as a lawyer in London, and on one fateful night, he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) and they completely hit if off. But, in a stroke of Curtis genius, Tim uses his power to help his roommate later that night and it changes everything with the meeting of Mary. What’s a guy to do? Why, go back and fix it again.
Mary and Tim get together and through a series of delightful vignettes in the London tube, we see how their love progresses. But, things aren’t all wine and roses. There are the normal complications that life brings, but Curtis manages to keep his tone upbeat, hopeful and absolutely romantic.
Curtis has struck gold with his story that allows its audience -- through Tim, Mary, Tim’s dad, his sister and friends -- to feel how important it is to treasure life’s little moments. More importantly, how each choice we make sets us on a path that may be dotted with sorrow, but is also overrun with joy and unthinkable happiness.
The writer-director never uses the time traveling element of his story to rule the tale. It is, in fact, the opposite. It is merely a piece of the puzzle that is this glorious romantic journey in one person’s life. And he gets the most out of his cast that could not be more impeccably cast.
Gleeson is a find. We can’t imagine anyone else playing the role so simultaneously deftly and delightfully. There is such joy and anguish as he discovers what is important and what is worth “fixing” with his gift. McAdams and Gleeson also share an electric chemistry that has the audience pulling for their romance to be a love of a lifetime. The actress paints her Mary as someone who is understated, yet no wallflower. She dances across the screen, figuratively, throughout the movie with just the right touch to play off of Gleeson.
And then there’s Nighy, who turns in another fantastic performance in a Curtis movie (after Love Actually and Pirate Radio). He is eccentric and adorable and his onscreen relationship with Tim will make you want to leave the theater and treasure your father like never before.
Our About Time review finds that Curtis is the master of romantic comedy that also carries the weight of a supreme drama with it. And his romance is not simply the lovey-dovey kind between two life partners. It expands exponentially to include family, friends and the people we least think will be someone who is important to us. Yet ultimately, with the benefit of the passage of time, we realize they are souls with whom we could not live without.
About Time is the perfect holiday gift.