Richard Curtis is something of a God when it comes to romantic comedies. After all, he wrote and directed “Love Actually,” which has grown to be regarded a holiday classic and beloved favorite of many. His other popular writing credits include “Notting Hill,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – which, like “Love Actually,” remain as essentials in the (excuse the term) chick-flick-canon.
So it comes as no surprise that his latest film, “About Time” (which he once again took on double duty as both writer and director), fits in beautifully with the other movies in his filmography. And rather than just harmlessly blending in with the others, “About Time” stands out among those films as Curtis’s most heartfelt film yet.
Domhnall Gleeson plays Tim, a sweet but awkward young man who at the age of 21 is informed by his father (the wonderful Bill Nighy) that the men in their family can travel in time. Right off the bat, the specifics and logistics are completely disregarded, save for a few key facts. They can only travel to moments in their life that they’ve already lived through. Or to use Nighy’s eloquent phrasing, “You can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. Unfortunately.” The fact that the story embraces simplicity, rather than working with a long-winded theory about time-travel, works wonders in its favor. Because when all is said and done, time-travel is merely being used as a device to communicate ideals about love, life, and family that are clearly very near and dear to Curtis’s heart.
And it’s for that reason that it feels somewhat stifling to call “About Time” a romantic comedy or chick flick. It certainly starts out like one, as the first half of the film is focused on Tim’s budding relationship with a beautiful American named Mary (Rachel McAdams). But as it makes its way into the second half, it becomes clear that this is a story that is far more interested in the preciousness of life than rom-com clichés. Some will undoubtedly watch this movie through a cynical lens, and will leave the theater rolling their eyes. And for those people, I feel sorry. The message behind this story may be one we’ve heard a thousand times before, but a reminder never hurts – especially one as touching and life-affirming as this one.
There’s no reason this movie should be minimized as one meant just for women. This is the sort of movie that is filled with so much charm, humor and heart (and an incredible soundtrack to boot) that it’s truly difficult to resist.
A lot of films of this nature set out with the goal of earning those coveted tears in the last act. They’ll pull out all the stops for them, and a lot of the time viewers will begrudgingly give in to their tricks. There’s a very good chance that “About Time” will leave you a blubbering mess by the end. Here, though, the tears and sentimentality are completely and totally earned. This is a beautiful reflection on the bittersweet nature of life and the fragility of time. This here earns every single tear. And it’s very likely to earn many more from this viewer when I go back to watch it time and time again.