Directed by Richard Curtis
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
On his 21st birthday, shy retiring Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is indoctrinated into the family secret by his father (Bill Nighy), and it’s a doozy. For some unknown and unexplained reason the males of the family are able to time travel within the bounds of their lived lifetime. Each member often chooses a purpose to utilise this ability for, and Tim dedicates himself to finding love. After a few rocky starts, Tim meets and falls in love with the delightfully quirky Mary (Rachel McAdams) and seeks to use his powers to create the perfect life.
The narrative shares much in common with Groundhog Day, but lacks the dark humour of the lead character going off the rails when facing a Sisyphean task. With seemingly no horrible side effects from time travelling (at least for the first two-thirds of the movie), Tim is free to travel back in time as often as he can to solve any issue. This robs the script of any dramatic impetus, and makes it feel like the plot just meanders for its two hour running time.
Director Richard Curtis’ script does of course come with all the charm one would expect from the writer of Four Weddings And A Funeral (as well as Notting Hill and Love Actually), it just never quiet seems to know what to do with it. Towards the end of the movie some limitations are introduced to the time travelling, but it seems purely there to create tension and give the movie an end point to work towards, something it has been lacking for the majority of its run.
Domhnall Gleeson puts in a good performance, despite coming across as a Weasley possessed by the spirit of Hugh Grant. Again blame here rests on Curtis’ script for producing a similar voice to previous characters. Still, there is a fair amount of charisma on display and Gleeson is quite likeable. Bill Nighy is the epitome of serenity, believable as a character that has lived every moment at least twice over. His interaction with Gleeson is easily the highlight, and forms perhaps the most rewarding emotional bound explored in the film as he passes on his wisdom to his son. Rachel McAdams is appropriately cute and quirky, providing some genuine chemistry in this overly sweet love story. Finally of note, Tom Hollander does inject some much needed humorous bastardry into the film with the minor role of Tim’s caustic playwright roommate.
About Time has a genuinely sweet heart and uplifting message, perhaps so much so that it comes across as slightly cloying. Robbed of forward momentum by its own plot device, it just seems to flounder for its overly long runtime with little conflict. Curtis provides a film brimming with charm, but it is everything we have seen before in films directed or scripted by him. You don’t need to have just stepped out of a blue police box to experience deja vu here.
_ DAVID O’CONNELL