“About Time” is in an interesting position. It is essentially the victim of its own marketing campaign. The film is heavily marketed as a romantic comedy, and while a portion of the film focuses on a relationship, it only amounts to about 30 minutes of the two-hour movie.
The rest of the film is about the life of Tim Lake, played by Domhnall Gleeson. We experience everything through his eyes from his 21st birthday to his marriage to the birth of his children.
The film begins with Tim’s father James, masterfully played by Bill Nighy, telling him that he — like all the men in their family — has the ability to travel through time.
Of course, he decides to use the power to right some of the more awkward moments in his life. Eventually he tries to use it to win the heart of the girl of his dreams. However, he quickly learns that you cannot make someone fall in love with you.
The first third of the movie is sloppy. It trudges along at an awkward pace. Although it is delightful to meet the unique cast of characters that inhabit the movie, it all feels a bit forced. The type of comedy just does not feel cohesive. It seems as though the writers could not decide what kind of movie they were making.
Despite the shaky first act of the movie, it eventually pulls together. The use of time travel is extremely tepid. The rules that his father sets seem like they are written in sand, but they are mostly used as a plot device opposed to the main plot.
Throughout the movie, Tim uses his ability to get things right and to help others in his life.
One of these events involves him saving a friend’s play at the expense of meeting Mary, played by Rachel McAdams. He then uses his ability to find a way to meet her elsewhere. One of the high points of the film is that we do not have to wait to find the success in their relationship.
The dynamic between the characters of Mary and Tim, but less so the actors, is impalpable. The characters themselves are incredibly honest and down-to-earth, and their relationship is one that you root for. This is the point of the film that it is all pulled together. The filmmakers find the cohesion lacking in the first part of the film and fully realize the use of time travel.
Tim has used his ability as a shortcut in his life, but in the film it is used as a teaching tool. He learns that you cannot always change the outcome of the future without changing something else. He tries using his ability as a super power, when in reality it is a crutch.
This sentimental film is headed with charming performances from Gleason and McAdams, and careful direction from Richard Curtis, who brought us “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually.” Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan and Richard Cordery compose the rest of the eclectic and hilarious Hill family.
There is a point in “About Time” when you realize this is a movie that you did not expect. It is a beautiful and sensitive film about life. At times it feels safe and familiar, and at others, outstandingly brilliant. But overall it is assuredly entertaining. In the end you will realize that the film has a lot more to say than its other genre companions.