movie film review | chris tookey

About Time

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  About Time Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
5.06 /10
Domhnall Gleeson , Bill Nighy , Rachel McAdams
Full Cast >

Directed by: Richard Curtis
Written by: Richard Curtis

Released: 2013
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK/ US
Length: 128

A feast of feelgood .
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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After the disappointment of The Boat That Rocked, itís high time Richard Curtis came up with a good movie, and About Time is exactly that.

Itís about travelling back in time in order to correct your mistakes. In this movie, thatís a talent passed from father (Bill Nighy at his most amiable) to grown-up son (Domhnall Gleeson, pictured right).

This is a star-making role for Gleeson, a charming, ginger-haired actor (you may remember him as Bill Weasley in the last two Harry Potter films), who looks much younger than his 30 years. He resembles not so much his actor father Brendan as a cross between Damian Lewis and an elongated Martin Freeman. Despite his Irish ancestry, he has the same English diffidence and expert comic timing that Hugh Grant brought to Curtisís earlier films.

In the first half of the picture, which is pleasantly reminiscent of Groundhog Day, the gift is used comedically, to help the well-meaning but accident-prone son find a girl-friend (the unfailingly cute Rachel McAdams, pictured left) without totally mucking up the courtship process.

Those who spotted the unconscious sexism in The Boat That Rocked may notice it rearing its head again. The man never lets on to the woman that he can travel in time, which adds an unappetising Ė and presumably unwanted - element of dishonesty to their relationship. Curtis could have addressed this, and doesnít.

The reason the story still resonates is that it turns real life into a computer game, one in which you can always go back to the place just before everything started to go horribly wrong. Many will identify with that, of both sexes.

The second hour moves in directions you wouldnít expect. It darkens appreciably, as our young hero learns that there are things in life that canít, or shouldnít, be undone.

Curtis has thought through the rules and illogicalities of time travel, and neatly avoids the ďchick flickĒ sentimentality of The Time Travellerís Wife, which again starred McAdams. Come to think of it, she also appeared in the other recent film that explored time travel with humour and charm, Woody Allenís Midnight in Paris. Fortunately, sheís different enough here, in a role winningly influenced by Audrey Tautouís Amelie, not to create a sense of deja vu.

Curtisís purpose in the second hour of About Time is simple but serious: to show how we should live our lives. It is a not-so-small miracle that he does so persuasively, and without preaching. His film turns into a beautiful, sincere celebration of the everyday pleasures of family life and unconditional love. At its best, it has echoes of Frank Capraís masterpiece about male familial responsibility, Itís a Wonderful Life.

Is this Curtisís finest work? Not quite. It lacks the uproarious humour of Love Actually, the slickness of Notting Hill, the intricacy of Four Weddings and a Funeral. At over two hours, itís a little too gentle and flaccid.

It also has the same wealthy, professional, upper-middle-class English milieu with bookish overtones that has always annoyed Curtisís most virulent critics.

It will especially infuriate those who insist that all cinema should be dangerous, edgy and obsessed with the darkness of human nature. There will be no shortage of people to belabour Curtis for being smug, bland and bourgeois.

However, About Time has three of the biggest assets you can find in romantic comedy: warmth, likeability and wit. It is unapologetically, defiantly nice. It would make a wonderfully romantic date movie, especially if both parties have emotional intelligence. It is certainly the finest romcom and easily the most heartwarming feelgood film of the summer.

I enjoyed it nearly as much as my 22 year-old son, and seeing it with him was appropriate as the central love story is not between a man and a woman but between a father and son.

Thatís the most original aspect, and Nighy and Gleeson display excellent chemistry in scenes that represent Curtis at his best Ė adult, sensitive and wise. They are, in the fullest sense of the word, Dickensian.

Equally impressive is Tom Hollander as the gloomy, splenetic playwright who reluctantly acts as our heroís landlord in London. Itís a splendid role, and Hollander gives a bravura display of comic acting.

So donít be put off by those who disparage About Time. For all its faults, this is a funny, touching film with important things to say.

Itís also about as far as you can get from monsters and giant robots kicking hell out of each other, and all the better for that.

Richard Curtis has threatened Ė some would say, promised Ė not to make any more films. I, for one, hope he revises that decision.

He still has plenty to say about the positive sides of the human condition, and heís one of the few people with the courage Ė and the clout - to say it. With this movie, he proves again that his is one of the rarest and most cherishable talents in cinema.

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