Another film billed as a romantic comedy that I would argue is something different, About Time tells the story of Tim, (Domhnall Gleeson) who discovers on his 21st birthday that the men in his family have the ability to travel throughout their own timeline – although only backwards through time, through memories they have already lived – with no apparent consequences.
Tim uses his powers not to get rich, ala Biff Tannen in Back to the Future II, but to find love, and after moving to London, and meets Mary (Rachel McAdams.) After a successful first meeting, which Tim inadvertently erases after going back in time to help a friend, Tim chases after her, and eventually the two fall in love, get married, and have a family.
It is after the birth of Tim and Mary’s first child, Posey, that the film shifts narrative focus. Following an argument with her boyfriend, and a drink related car accident Tim’s sister KitKat (Lydia Wilson) is hospitalised, and when he goes back to stop this, Tim finds his daughter be replaced with a son. it is revealed by Tim’s father, the great Bill Nighy, that Tim can only go back in time to any point before the birth of his child, else the changes in time will change the child.
As we continue to follow Tim’s life, we finds his father has terminal cancer, and that neither father or sons time travel ability can change this fact. Sometime after his fathers’ death Mary tells Tim she wants another child – leaving Tim with ‘the hardest decision he’s ever had to make,’ as he knows that after the birth of a third child he will never be able to see his dad again. This leads to the films sweetest moment, between Gleeson and Nighy, as they say their final goodbyes. The film ends on a happy note, with Tim revealing he no longer uses his powers, but treats every day as if it were his last, revelling in the joy of each moment.
While the film is both funny and romantic, it is hard to argue it is a romantic comedy, more a tale of one man, Tim, and his relationship with both his wife and family, in particular his father. The acting is again excellent, Gleeson standing out in particular, proving his ability as a leading man with the chops for comedy and drama.
I have noticed several reviewers having an issue with the rules of time travel in this movie, but they seem simple enough to me. Whilst Tim can only go back through past events, he can go forward too, back to where he travelled from – that is he can travel within his time stream up to the present, but not the future, and while the film could have made this clearer, I didn’t find it that hard to understand.
What I did find hard, however, was the ages of the actors – the film takes place over a period of several years, from Tim’s young adulthood to near middle age, and whilst the leads, and most of the main cast, age with the clever use of makeup, others don’t – in particular the supporting character Jay, Tim’s best friend, played by Will Merrick of Skins fame, who looks to be about seventeen throughout, was particularly jarring. Another problem I have was that McAdams’ Mary is never told of Tim’s ability – and this does make me feel that Tim is slightly creepy and manipulative in his relationship with her, and this dishonesty does sit a bit uncomfortably.
All in all then another Romantic Comedy that has become something more, a tale of one man and his family. Genuinely funny and heart warming in places, and well acted, the two leads sharing great chemistry, and despite having a slightly weak script, it is the acting that carries it. 7/10