About Time (2013)    2 Stars

“What if every moment in life came with a second chance?”

About Time (2013)
About Time (2013)


Director: Richard Curtis

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy

Synopsis: At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think.




I sort of wish that Richard Curtis was God. If we all lived in a world created by Curtis everyone would be a bottomless mine of witty one-liners, people would die out of sight without displaying any distressing symptoms, and there would be no – or very few – arseholes walking around just waiting for the chance to spoil your day. To be fair, there is one bad-tempered character in About Time, the latest in Curtis’s ongoing series of feel-good movies, but you know that underneath that gruff exterior he’s really something of a teddy bear. He’s the reluctant landlord of young Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson – Dredd), who arrives in London to begin life as a lawyer shortly after receiving the staggering news from his father (Bill Nighy – Total Recall) that all the men in his family are capable of time travel once they turn 21. All they have to do is climb into an empty cupboard, close their eyes, clench their fists and think of another time in their life in which they’d like to be.

It’s a handy talent to have, you must admit, and it’s one that opens up the plot of About Time to all kinds of possibilities. Most of us would immediately travel back to last Saturday and pick the winning lottery numbers, but Curtis, who both wrote and directed About Time, is a writer who appeals more to affairs of the heart, and so his story goes off in a perhaps unexpected direction.

Tim quickly learns to be judicious about how he uses his new-found talent when, by travelling back in time to rectify the disastrous opening night of the play written by his grumpy landlord, Harry (Tom Hollander), he inadvertently wipes the number from his phone of the cute American girl, Mary (Rachel McAdams – Midnight in Paris), he had originally met at exactly the same time that Harry’s disaster was taking place. On another occasion, after he and Mary are wed, Tim returns from travelling back in time to discover that his baby child is a completely different person as a result. Apart from these two occasions, however, Curtis steers clear of the whole Butterfly Effect curse with which most time-travel movies seem to concern themselves.

And About Time isn’t really about the romance between Tim and Mary – that’s pretty much dealt with in the movie’s opening 45 minutes – but Tim’s relationship with his father, James, a former University professor who has retired early to enjoy his idyllic lifestyle on the Cornish coast. So although About Time is the kind of film that would primarily appeal to women – you know what I mean: they can cry while they watch it with a soppy smile on their face – it will also strike a chord with many male members of the audience. Most of us have – or had – a Dad, and About Time slowly focuses more and more of its attention on this unique relationship before maintaining a gentle pressure on that part of us that constantly wishes, after they’ve gone, for just one more afternoon with them.

It’s a typical Curtis film, which will be reason enough for some people to give it a miss. But if you have a taste for the unremitting niceness of his characters and the world in which they live, and are unconcerned by the inevitable plot holes that plague all time-travel movies, this one might well have you reaching for the Kleenex while you laugh.

(Reviewed 3rd May 2015)

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