Writer/director and self-confessed “fool for love” Richard Curtis adds another gem to his repertoire with “About Time.” Sweet and sentimental in the best sense of those words, Curtis’ fans (and the ones whom they bring along) will happily welcome it.
This time it’s Domhnall Gleeson front and center (son of Brendan, and whose name he says is pronounced like “Tonal but with a D”). I’d paid little attention to him in the past, but in “Anna Karenina” he just jumped from the screen, and with the “About Time” trailer I suspected he belongs on the Roller Watch. He just blew past me in “True Grit,” which means either that it was solid but unremarkable, or borne of a superb talent not yet on my radar.
Here’s utterly charming yet grounded throughout as Tim Lake, who learns at the age of 21 that the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time. They can’t effect anyone’s timeline but their own, but they can at will go back and re-do a moment, back up and start over from any point. It seems at first blush that everything would become easier, but in fact they become quite tricky as Tim learns the parameters and limitations… and their consequences.
Opposite Gleeson is Rachel McAdams as Tim’s intended sweetheart Mary (in her third outing as the sweetheart of a time traveler, as it happens). I’ve never been a particular fan of her style; so often it feels as though all of us are expected to be as swept away by her winsome charms as her costar is, and her presence rather sucks all the attention from the space.
In this case, however, Gleeson packs plenty of his own winsome charm, meeting her squarely and keeping the attention on Tim, on the pair as a couple, and on Tim’s relationship with his father, played by the ever-winning Bill Nighy (seriously, the man can do no wrong).
While focused essentially on the romantic path Tim fashions with his beloved, “About Time” operates on a much wider scale, a scale that will make you glad you tucked a Kleenex into your pocket. Neither maudlin nor saccharine, “About Time” touches the best part of ourselves in the best possible way; if we’ve experienced familial warmth it will make us remember and appreciate, and if we haven’t, it will remind us that Love does exist in the world, and may still in our own going forward should we choose to reach for it.
Rounding out the family are Lydia Wilson as Tim’s loving mother, Lindsay Duncan as his kind, quirky sister, and Tom Hollander as his eccentric artist uncle. Hollander carries forth as the perfect echo of Richard Dreyfuss in “The Goodbye Girl,” and in fact “About Time” vibes on precisely that wavelength. It explores weighty subjects with a featherweight touch, and rollicks along with life’s fun and foibles in Curtis’ carefree style.
Curtis has reported that while he will continue to write, “About Time” will be his last directorial outing. Pointing out that he’s taking his own advice in living every day with attention and appreciation, if his current feeling turns out to be true, it will be for us to appreciate what he’s given us and be ever glad that we had the time with him.
“About Time” is a perfect pick-me-up for the world’s ills, a charmer for the heart, and a generally perfect portrait of healthy love in all its forms.
If it’s the last in his repertoire, it’s the most perfect farewell valentine he could have given us. Mandatory for any romantic comedy/drama fan, and likely to earn a few converts from their dates. ;)
Remember that Kleenex…
Story: A young man’s future suddenly becomes literally what he makes of it, when he learns that the men in his family can travel back in time.
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander
Directed by: Richard Curtis
Running time: 123 minutes
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Houston release date: November 1, 2013
Tickets: Check Fandango, IMDb, or your local listings
Screened Oct 8th at the Edwards Grand Palace theater in Houston TX