About Time, 2013.
Directed by Richard Curtis.
Starring Rachel McAdams, Margot Robbie, Bill Nighy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Tom Hollander.
On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) finds out he can time travel. His first mission: get a girlfriend.
As we settled into our seats, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. What should we expect? A tragedy, a horror, a comedy? At The Surprise Movie screening at Edinburgh Film Festival, it could be anything. All I hoped was that it would be entertaining: two weeks of gritty documentaries has its merits, but there does come a point when you need a little light relief.
And boy, did EIFF deliver. Along came About Time, the new Richard Curtis film, due for release in September. Unusually among film writers, I very much enjoy his work; mostly for the fact that its pseudo-realism is just deep enough to be worth watching, and just light enough to not spoil my evening with worrying about humanity.
I have only previously seen Domhnall Gleeson as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise, which is not exactly an expansive role, so I could not have high expectations. However, I am happy to declare that he is a fantastic leading man; he was delightfully clumsy, witty and generally lovable. I also really, really enjoyed the relationship between him and Mary – it wasn’t overly romantic, and instead focused on how much they just got on as great friends. Some romances will gloss over the fact that in healthy relationships, people are not on pedestals, but are free to make fart jokes and tease each other, and I’m glad About Time does not join those ranks.
The relationships Tim has with his family are also really delightful, if a little nauseatingly perfect. He and his father (played by Bill Nighy) work really well as a pair, often for laughs, though with plenty of aptitude for the more sentimental scenes. Nighy is really on top form, and it’s a sign of Gleeson’s skill and presence that he isn’t eclipsed altogether!
The only fault in this film is its lack of commitment to genuine human sadness. Where sad and desperate things happen, time travel is quickly employed to right them again, and as such there is no space to reflect on the effect that they might have on the characters. Indeed, there is only a small amount of consideration for the moral ambiguity of righting these wrongs – Tim seems to not care whether he is robbing anyone of helpful formative experiences, but continues to flit backwards and forwards to make sure that no one he cares for is ever hurt. Such dedication to his loved ones’ happiness would be admirable, except that it leads to all the characters being unable to develop in a fulfilling way.
About Time is a wonderfully happy and light-hearted film, imbued with the joy of the smaller things in life. Though it will be a long while before anyone gets to see it, I would highly recommend putting it in the diary. A perfect choice for an evening where the world seems bleak!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★