About Time is an enjoyable oddball rom-com
Starring Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams. Rated PG.
Yes, there are weddings, funerals, deranged roommates, and well-appointed Portobello walkups. With About Time, Brit director Richard Curtis serves up a lot of the same, gentle romantic comedy that audiences have been eating up for two decades. But he also reaches for something much more here, sneakily trying to get at the meaning of life and happiness. It’s called About Time, after all, and you might be caught totally off-guard when its big messages whallop you by the end.
Just as he enters adulthood at his idyllic family home in Cornwall, geeky Tim (the charming Domhnall Gleeson, “too tall, too skinny, too orange”) finds out he’s inherited his father’s gift: the ability to travel back in time. This does not mean, as his father (a hilariously eccentric Bill Nighy) explains, he can “kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy”. No, but he can and does use it to go back and smooth over those awkward moments we all wish we could patch up.
As he moves to London and falls for wonky-artsy Mary (Rachel McAdams), his powers come in handy, but what becomes significant as their relationship moves along is the imperfections he chooses not to change. We’re talking weddings in hurricane-force downpours, or the sleep-deprived chaos of cooking babies their breakfast.
As usual, Curtis sometimes gets too precious: the meet cute lasts an eternity, and McAdams strains too hard at insecurity. But the unaffected, bumbling Gleeson holds it all together, helped by a tight circle of weird friends, gorgeous lensing, and a mood-setting soundtrack that includes a brilliantly placed Nick Cave song.
So what is the key to happiness? As Curtis might say, it has to do with love, actually. But you’re best to take this surprisingly enjoyable, moving yet oddball semi-metaphysical journey to find out. You may walk in calling it a rom-com, but you won’t know quite how to describe it when you walk out.