Richard Curtis’ romantic comedy, About Time, is a wistful film about the choices we make in life and the opportunities we have to learn from them. Using the device of time travel, Curtis’ script tells the story of a young man, Tim, who learns from his father that the men in their family have the gift of time travel, the ability to go back and redo events in their lives in order to insure a better future. Tim uses this gift to script his own romance, marriage, and to improve his family’s life throughout the years. However, he also must come to terms with the limitations of this gift; there are events whose course cannot be changed and the handy device is no insurance against pain, loss, or grief.
Curtis uses the time travel as a metaphor for reflection and change; it is the device through which Tim learns to examine his actions and his relationships and to improve upon them; in the course of the film he learns to accept more things in his stride, to live more joyfully in the moment, and to cherish the moments which pass into eternity.
The film succeeds because of Curtis’ unpretentious script and his understated, natural camera work. Set in sweeping beauty of the Cornish coast and in the heart of London, Curtis and cinematographer, John Gulerserian, give the film an atmospheric, yet credible feeling.
Domhnall Gleeson makes an appealing, loveable Tim, just boyishly awkward enough to add to his allure. Rachel McAdams turns in a sweet, sassy performance as his wife, Mary; Lydia Wilson is his endearingly zany, messed-up sister, Kit-Kat; Lindsay Duncan his strong, silent mother, and Richard Cordery a delightfully dotty Uncle Desmond. Tom Hollander turns in a mordantly funny performance as family friend, playwright John Chapman. The heart of the drama, however, belongs to Bill Nighy, as Tim’s father, who guides him to manhood and on to the challenges that await. In a performance that recalls his range and capacity for tenderness in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Nighy is gentle, wise, and deliciously ironic as a man who has come to terms with his fate and learned the lesson that love transcends all time.
Curtis, who wrote such romantic classics as Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, has added a new parable to his canon of charming and heartwarming tales.