Richard Curtis, the brain behind some of the best British romantic comedies in the past 20 years (namely Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually), serves up another slice of unabashed schmaltz in About Time. This overlong but perfectly convivial film stars Domhnall Gleeson (he played Bill Weasley in the final Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films) as Tim, a shy, gawky fella who learns – on his 21st birthday – a family secret from his father (Bill Nighy). Turns out the men in their family have the ability to travel back in time.
Predictably, Tim uses this gift to woo a girl, the impossibly perfect Mary (Rachel McAdams). It’s a nifty skill to possess, and he applies it wisely, pausing, rewinding, and replaying moments that could do with some improvement, including the first time they get between the sheets.
Populated with a bunch of Curtis stereotypes – the crazy housemate, the damaged sibling, the nerdish best friend – the film coasts along smoothly, taking us a few years into Tim and Mary’s relationship, during which they must encounter minor speed bumps. Occasionally, however, the narrative veers off its course spending too much time dealing with supporting characters and their issues.
The big lessons of the film, that life is best lived in the moment, and that it’s important to make every day count, are delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Yet, the charming leads keep you hooked throughout. Gleeson and McAdams have a winning chemistry that doesn’t lose its fizz till the very end, but it’s the father-son relationship between Gleeson and Nighy that proves to be the film’s true love story, and the one most likely to tug at your heartstrings.
I’m going with three out of five for About Time. It’s a nice, original rom-com with a sci-fi twist. How often do you come across something like that?