About Time is actually about love … and life
From the creators of ‘Love Actually’ comes your new favorite romantic comedy involving time travel, life lessons and Harry Potter actors.
I went into the screening for About Time after a pretty rough day of work, just feeling physically and mentally exhausted with a nasty headache to boot. The movie’s premise had me interested, to be sure — Tim (played by Domhnall Gleesonaka Bill Weasley from the Harry Potter series) learns on his 21st birthday that all the men in his family can travel back in their own timeline. British magic and time travel stories is kind of a favorite of mine, but I just was not in the mood to sit in a full theater that night. As the opening narration began to set up the film, I immediately started to relax. By the time the end credits were rolling, I was genuinely moved and enjoyed the whole experience. I basically have About Time to thank for salvaging my evening.
I had been dreading a Click-esque plot where the protagonist uses his power constantly for selfish, borderline unethical purposes. But then, oh no, he accidentally erased all the truly good parts of his life away and it’s a race to fix everything and learn a lesson. That’s the kind of hack work About Time thankfully avoids in spades. When he’s explaining the time travel (which is less paradox-y than other stories I’ve seen and sticks to the rules relatively well), Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) is adamant that his son not go for wealth or power because those goals are extremely overrated. He needs to use his gift for the important things like reading and making the world a little better — which could have come off as trite and obtusely sentimental but luckily Bill Nighy’s saying it. Thank goodness Tim isn’t a dumbed down or unlikable protagonist. He still makes mistakes but even at the start of the movie he’s a mature and intelligent 21 year old. The few times things get erased that he desperately needs, it’s because he was using his power to help someone else. Yes, a movie that shows good intentions can still cause damage. The restraint he uses with his powers is a refreshing surprise. Because while he decides early on to use time travel to find his true love, there is far less manipulation of women and much more “redoing moments where he made an ass of himself.” Turns out it’s insanely relaxing having those cringe-worthy moments of social awkwardness erased in front of your eyes — anyone who hates Meet the Parents-style comedy will find the time travel in this therapeutic.
The movie probably wouldn’t have worked if not for the charm and general likability of Domhnall Gleeson. He pulls you into the story with the opening narration (set nicely to the instrumental of Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest”, which repeats throughout the movie). I sat in the theater thinking throughout the movie, “God, the Deathly Hallows films did not give him enough to do” because the guy balances both the funny and serious moments in this film so well. Oh, and you can look forward to one Harry Potter reference as a not so subtle nod to the three HP actors in the film (well, two references if you count the maroon Weasley-eqsue sweater Tim wears in an early scene).
Bill Nighy is his usual delightful self, but watching him with Gleeson is something special. About Time has been advertised as a love story and it is — Rachel McAdams is sweet and I believed the chemistry between her and our protagonist — but so much of the film is devoted to the relationship between this father and son. It was strong to start off but grows stronger as Tim moves through adulthood with this strange secret he shares with his father. The only complaint I have about the film is the childhood best friend character. He becomes an important plot point later in the film but just wasn’t developed enough for us to really believe he conveniently changed in the way he does. It’s a small complaint, but something that bothered me after the film was over.
The special thing about About Time that you figure out as the movie progresses is that it isn’t really about getting the girl. It’s not even really about time travel. It’s a sweet, often poignant story about a man learning what matters to him. Everyone I’ve talked to who went to one of the early screenings left the theater with a big smile. So did I and I bet you will too.