Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
About Time melds fantasy with a relatable and heart-warming story.
The protagonist, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), is a 21-year-old aspiring lawyer who lacks self-confidence and has the unfortunate habit of making regrettable decisions. After a disastrous New Years Eve party where Tim excruciatingly shakes a girls hand on the stroke of midnight rather than kissing her, his father (Bill Nighy) asks to speak with him about something important. He reveals a family secret that all of the men in their family have the ability to travel back in time to events within their own life. Tim is obviously sceptical but is persuaded by his father to attempt it. Tim successfully returns to the New Years Eve party and realises the potential change this power could bring to his life. Over the next few of years, Tim begins to realise that some things cannot be changed with time travel. He learns that sometimes you must choose between what is important to you and what is detrimental to others, due to the inability to be in two places at once. Tim eventually meets Mary, the love of his life. Unfortunately, a time travelling incident alters the past in a way in which she never meets him. About Time follows Tim’s attempts to change the past primarily around circumstances affecting Mary, his father, and his sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson).
About Time’s appeal stems from the relatable decision making of Tim. Gleeson’s performance as Tim is fantastic. The contrast between Tim’s mannerisms and confidence during the present and after time travel is highly evident, adding depth to Gleeson’s performance. Often Tim appears awkward, unsure and quite uncomfortable before time traveling. Tim often time travels simply to approach situations differently, using his knowledge of the situation to manipulate the events that are about to unfold. Whilst the film’s concept is farfetched, the story seems extremely familiar and entices the audience to reflect on the decisions they have made in their own lives.
Bill Nighy provides a standout performance in About Time. Viewers are graced with Nighy’s tantalising presence and ability to steal the spotlight effortlessly. Each of his lines is executed to perfection, crafting his sentences to make him seem a mixture of wise, eccentric and mysterious. This is highlighted at the beginning of the film when he explains the family’s ability to time travel to Tim. Nighy is blunt but uses pauses mid sentence to create a sense of anticipation. There is never a point for the viewer where Nighy seems unbelievable when explaining the concept of time travel, although Tim seems to believe his father is playing an extremely elaborate prank.
Rachel McAdams is admirable in her supporting role as Mary. McAdams never steals the spotlight but compellingly performs in her role as the girl of Tim’s dreams. Mary is an extremely likeable character and the audience relates to the unbelievable lengths Tim goes to in order to make her his girlfriend and ensure the two of them live a happy, conflict free life. McAdams’ performance as Mary enhances Gleeson’s ability to expand on Tim’s characterisation.
A slight flaw of About Time is the application of the apparent rules of time travel. There is a scene towards the end of the film where rules that have appeared throughout the film seem to be broken. Tim and his father travel back in time to a day during Tim’s childhood where they went to the beach. Whilst the scene is touching, it breaks a fundamental rule of time travel within the film, being that if you go too far into the past, it changes fundamental events to the point where important aspects of your present life are completely different. This rule is a point of emphasis at different stages of the film, and took away from what was otherwise a wonderful scene.
About Time invokes a wide range of emotions by illustrating the beauty and hardship of everyday life. The film is very pleasant but forces reflection, generating a deeper viewing experience. Richard Curtis successfully blends an ambitious concept with a relatable story and characters making the film believable.