Richard Curtis writes and directs a feature that bursts with charm, wit and more than anything, a heart.
On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) gets told by his Father (the ever excellent Bill Nighy) that the men in his family can travel through time – all the while not giving an interest into the why or how about it – Tim decides to use this extraordinary ability to help him find love, learning some lessons on the way.
All the known Curtis tropes are here: the bumbling, awkward lead, the American love interest, the eccentric housemate, the London setting, lives of the middle-class to name just a few – safe to say we’re treading on recognizable ground. A high concept such as time travel added into this mix proves to be refreshing yet familiar, like a warm pair of slippers.
The real strength of the film rests on its ability to convey emotion. Many will dismiss as simply being schmaltzy or over-sentimental however this is where About Time works best. Yes, there are flaws in the notion of time travel – even breaking its own rules at one point – but honestly, who goes to a Richard Curtis film expecting scientific accuracy or the world to change? The expectations lie in the investment in the characters, their situations and their lives.
Bill Nighy as Tim’s Father steals almost every scene he is in with his charismatic performance and excellent patter with Gleeson’s Tim. Their relationship is the heart of the film. Yes, there is a love story with Tim and the ever-welcome Rachel McAdams but the tale Curtis seemed to focus on was the Father/Son – the balance between the two is very well stewarded.
Gleeson’s Tim is almost a replica of late 90s Hugh Grant and this becomes the films main flaw. Whilst Gleeson is charming and compelling as Tim, it’s hard not to wonder how well a younger Grant would have slotted into this role.
As with other directorial efforts (Love Actually and The Boat That Rocked), there are parts of the film that could have gone however that would be looking for flaws rather than enjoying the film for what it is – a thick duvet on a cold day.
There are similarities between Curtis’s love letters to England/London and Woody Allen’s early love letters to New York. Whilst About Time wouldn’t be Curtis’s Annie Hall – Notting Hill would surely take that crown – it would hold it’s own very capably in the company of such names, if coming up slightly short.
Curtis has stated it may be his last directorial effort, if that turns to be the case, About Time hits the right notes, at the right times and for that, it deserves to be commended.