About Time


Release: Friday, November 1, 2013


For the price of admission to this one they ought to give you an entire box of tissues — they can come in handy here. Richard Curtis delivers the world the feel-good/tear-jerking film of the year, bar none few.

About Time is, well. . .if you want to see a tired genre getting a facelift — a good one, not one of those sloppy jobs that make you wonder what that person just had and now no longer does — go see this one. Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams light up the screen like few cinematic couples have since Ryan Gosling and she did way back when. Before we go name-calling and accusing Allie of two-timing her beloved Noah, I need to gush even more and say Gleeson and McAdams are perhaps the more believable, romantic pairing. This film benefits tremendously from an all-around lovable cast including Bill Nighy (Hot Fuzz; Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows) and Lindsay Duncan (Under the Tuscan Sun) as Tim’s parents, and Lydia Wilson as Tim’s oddball sister, Kit-Kat.

This film may be getting bashed for its sentimentality, and there’s probably some level of validity to the criticism, but honestly these folks are grossly overlooking the overall experience of this film. The logic to its central plot and even perhaps the way it’s carried out is questionable, sure, but hey, at least it’s inventive. Infectiously so.

After turning 21 and having failed miserably in his most recent attempts to pick up a girlfriend over a New Year’s party, Tim’s father sits him down for a chat. But instead of the birds-and-the-bees he gets a little inside scoop on a curious family secret. Since the beginning of. . .whenever. . .the men in the family have been able to travel back in time. Tim simply dismisses this as a strange joke at first (of course), but his dad urges him to try it out for himself. All he has to do is go to a small, dark room and close his eyes and clench his fists, thinking about a moment in time he’d like to go back to. Wham. He’s there.

As one might imagine, with a “gift” of being able to go back into the past, the possibilities are limitless as to what any of us would do with it. Tim uses his abilities to find the perfect girl to make his life complete. Admittedly, the film’s objective is pretty one-dimensional, but the value of family-building and finding love in the most unexpected ways is a hard concept to rail against, so it’s necessary to suppress the urge to call this movie too-pat.

I should back up a little bit actually. About Time isn’t necessarily exclusively about lovemaking and forming families; it also reminds one of the impossibility of living inside the perfect moment all the time. As Tim comes to find, even with the ability to go back to these moments, it can’t be done. Life forces us to move forward, day-by-day, taking whatever comes at us. Curtis’ inventive narrative here is extremely intriguing in this regard. How would you manage your life with this kind of insight? What would you take and what would you leave? As Nighy’s perpetually-charming father warns, “You have to use it to make your life the way you want it to be.”

This film’s charm is responsible for it rising to near the top of my list of favorite romantic-comedies of all-time (now, granted that’s not a huge list, but this is still a huge surprise given the material and my film preferences). The scene in which the emotions and dialogue feel forced or tailored to Hollywood’s liking is impossible to find here. This is the trump card, above Mary and Tim’s relationship; this above the father-son relationship; this above the love a brother has for another sibling.

It’s a film not without its flaws and cliches, but it’s about time a film of this kind of discerning quality is made. The contemporary landscape of romantic-comedies/fantasies is a barren wasteland of instantly forgettable stories that typically go in one direction — straight to the happy ending. That’s all well and good, and that’s not to say Curtis’ film doesn’t trend similarly, but in the process of this story being told, we actually feel like we learn a thing or two about a complicated family dynamic. Or more importantly, about the complexities of families in general.

At the very least, Tim’s father admits that he’s used his ability to time travel to go back and catch up on reading all the novels and books he could ever imagine being able to read. Between this idea and the interactions between the main characters, this film feels lightyears more mature than others of its kind.

I absolutely lost myself in this special little film. What a lovely surprise.



Recommendation: A film for those who don’t mind tearing up quite a bit throughout, and for those who appreciate a well-acted and thoughtful meditation on what family means, why they matter and how they come to be.  See also: a healthy alternative to any romantic comedy made within the last ten or fifteen years. This is very much a film to determine whether or not you should see it based on its audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (85%); rather than the critical consensus (68%). Seems a little ironic to write that on a blog that critically analyzes films, but hey. . .I’d rather speak the truth than get all up on my high horse like I usually do.

Rated: R

Running Time: 123 mins.

Quoted: “You can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. . .”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

24 thoughts on “About Time

  1. Pingback: About Time (2013) Review | Cinema Parrot Disco

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  3. This is really so far out of my comfort zone so I probably won’t watch it, but my best friend was so in love with this flick. Absolutely awesome write up that makes me almost consider but… eish, as we would say here in SA. It really does have a nice cast!


    • teehee, fair’s fair. I ordinarily avoid this kind of story because it’s sick-making with how cute it can get sometimes. But this wasn’t the case for me here, but I think I just so fell in love with the cast that even if that was true I was blinded. Blinded by love.


      • LOOOOOOOOOL! Oh wonderful Tom, so blinded! 😛 Maybe I will check it out… we shall see. Maybe when she visits, then it might be socially acceptable for me to sit back and watch this type of movie 😉


  4. Splendid review, Tom! I can’t wait to see this one. Domnhall Gleeson is becoming one of my favorites with roles in Anna Karenina and Dredd. I’m not the biggest fan of romantic comedies but when done right, they can be fantastic.


    • Fully with you on that one Fernando. Rom-coms are not always my bag either, they mostly all feel and look the same, with a rotating door of actors who can step in and out of cutesy roles. About Time has a bit of that to it, one could argue, but I thought it was so much more than that too. Can’t wait to read a review from you on it. I’m fairly sure you’ll dig it 🙂


    • Seems fair, I haven’t seen any of his other work, may not need to. I can understand some of the mixed reception I suppose, it gets a little sappy every now and then but as far as some others go, I put this up there with some of the more memorable bits of film I’ve seen. Was not prepared to say that before I went to see it!


    • I look forward to the afterthoughts. I really quite fell in love with it. It also really reminded me of home (Chelmsford, England is actually where I’m from) so that helped me really get into this. Plus Gleeson and McAdams here are just charming.


      • So I had a much different take. I found the protagonist extremely selfish in that he manipulated this poor girl to suit his own desires. He even went back in time at one point and made sure she didn’t meet the guy who was going to be her boyfriend. She was oblivious to it all which made it seem almost unfair. I could go on, but you can read my thoughts on my site. I really like Richard Curtis too so I was fully prepared to enjoy this.


  5. I haven’t seen this yet, but I love Curtis’ other work, and the trailers for About Time look so promising. I need to make it back to the theater again. When I do, this will be the centerpiece of my experience.

    Thanks for the glowing recommendation!


    • Hey my pleasure! I’m glad it could be a positive/glowing one. I like to think I’m pretty bitter and cynical when it comes to these sappy love stories, but here’s one that’s insanely well-done. totally not deserving of the 68% it’s getting over on RT


  6. Good review Tom. The time-travel format goes in, and it goes out, but the heart of the story got mixed around a bit too much for me to fully get involved with it.


    • Thank you sir! It certainly walks some precarious lines here, in terms of how convenient some of the time traveling goes. . . I definltely am with you there! 🙂 I think I just really loved the cast’s chemistry. It was really felt in this one


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