Directed by: Richard Curtis
What is with Richard Curtis and English guy/American girl stories? Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, that one character in Love Actually obsessed with Americans, and now his latest About Time. I’ve been waiting for him to come back to the romantic comedies that I know and like him for, and I feel like I’ve been waiting for a while. It would seem the wait was worth it.
I haven’t seen much of the promotion for the film, but I feel like it’s going to try and be sold solely as a romantic comedy. It has elements of it, and given Richard Curtis’s previous work, it’s kind of what you expect it to be, but it’s also about a father-son relationship, as well as a romantic one. When Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21, he’s let in on a family secret: the men of his family can travel in time. Only into the past, and things aren’t always fixable, but it’s possible. Determined to use his new found gift to get him a girlfriend, he follows the advice of his father (Bill Nighy) to get a girl to fall in love with him, but it’s not as simple as he would like it to be.
The character of Tim is a little awkward, and you can sort of predict the mistakes he’s going to make with his time travelling. He is essentially an updated version of Hugh Grant’s characters in Curtis’s previous films as a writer, but Grant was sometimes quite awkward to watch, while Gleeson manages to not be. The father-son relationship between him and Bill Nighy, who plays the role really well, it’s quite sweet, and it works both because of how the character is written and what Nighy does with it. The relationship between Tim and his dad, who doesn’t get a character name other than ‘Dad’, is what really makes the film work, more than the love story. And I kind of like Bill Nighy not actually getting a name, there’s something universal, and inclusive, about a father character who is only referred to as Dad.
I don’t know why, but I find it a peculiar coincidence that Rachel McAdams is also in the only other romance time-travel film I can think of. There are very few similarities between About Time and The Time Traveler’s Wife though, this is a lot lighter, more of the feel-good kind of movie. Rachel McAdams is pretty good as Mary, but I’m not sure how much I bought her being the insecure type. I also wonder whether she might have needed a reason to move to London, just to be a reader at a publisher, but oh well. Tom Hollander plays Harry, the angry and cynical playwright, who is quite funny. Richard Cordery plays Uncle Desmond, who’s a very sweet character, and will get quite a few laughs, but it’s a little strange how lightly his character is taken, especially since there’s clearly something wrong with him. Or maybe I’m taking it too seriously.
Even though Richard Curtis didn’t direct Four Weddings… or Notting Hill, his writing has such a distinct style, that despite having different directors for those, and directing About Time himself, the three of them (and Love Actually) seem to fit together so well. The nitty-gritty of the time travel doesn’t make perfect sense, and there are a few places it doesn’t work according to their own logic, but the science fiction element seems almost secondary. It’ll be promoted as a rom-com, but don’t go by that, there’s much more to it. It is successfully funny and emotional, and I can see it working well even with those outside it’s intended audience.
About Time is out in the UK on 4th September, and in the US 1st November 2013.