Movie Review: 'About Time' (2013) Is A Life Love Story

Time is such a precious thing, an all-encompassing unit of every person’s life. We are all blessed with it, capable of using it various ways and always dealing with how we have chosen to spend it. Battling regrets and wondering what we would do with a second chance, all the while managing the fact we only have so much time, to begin with.

These are heavy thoughts and “About Time” explores them without depressingly sorrow pauses. It's a coming of age story about what happens after you come of age.

“About Time” follows Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) after he learns at the age of 21 that he has inherited his father’s gift of time travel. No, this is not the point where sci-fi special effects take over. This is where a clever bit of storytelling starts to unfold.

Tim uses this newfound gift for the usual at first; second chances at romantic blunders, and helping out his fellow man. Leaving the warm ambiance of his family, he moves to London and works to find his one true love. Low and behold, the charming Mary (Rachel McAdams) stumbles into his path. 

What sets "About Time" apart is that at this juncture in the story the movie could have been overcome by the romantic aspect of its story. Surprisingly, it continues with a pleasant balance of family, career, and romance.

It mixes them all together to resemble something far closer to real life than the average romantic-comedy usually bothers to do. There are genuinely funny moments as Tim tries to navigate his life, now made a little easier by time traveling, and the unforeseen consequences of using it.

The father-and-son relationship between Tim and his father (played by the magnificent Bill Nighy) is one of the main components of the film. As a mentor, teacher, and compassionate figure, Nighy’s character is one of the best movie dads to be presented on-screen in a long time.

Their relationship is so wholesome and positive, it radiates a warmth that entices you into the family unit, Tim understandably adores.

This quirky family is completed by Tim’s younger sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), their mom (Lindsay Duncan), and Uncle D (Richard Cordery). Rarely do you see a family presented in such a loving and carefree fashion, hence the affection expressed by the characters is infectiously engaging.

What writer-director Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”, “Notting Hill) has presented here is a near-flawless film, one that encapsulates more tenderness and heart than any film in recent memory. Reportedly Curtis’ last film, you can feel the emotion of that decision behind the journey of this story.

“About Time” is reflective, a retrospective of life’s best and worst days, the cheery times with the bittersweet ones. He has clearly poured every ounce of sweet, affable, genius into this story. The writing is poignant and never slides into clichĂ©.

For instance, the relationship between Tim and his sister is portrayed with a rarely-seen sibling affection, where the two care about each other devoid of any disdain. The way the script is constructed draws one into this magical experience. Curtis could not have left cinema on a better note.

Where he also succeeds is with his cast, as he captures some of their most memorable performances. Domnhall Gleeson is brilliant as Tim, imbuing him with a humor, tenderness, and kindness that never crosses the line of being foolish. He is just a good guy that one can root for, from beginning to end.

Gleeson’s chemistry with co-star Rachel McAdams is exceedingly well-done and McAdams herself has never been better. After years, toiling away on films that never quite rose to the occasion (“The Time Traveler's Wife”), she finds the perfect outlet for her feisty vivaciousness in "About Time," hitting screen-partner gold with Gleeson. 

As previously mentioned, Bill Nighy is exceptional as Tim’s father. He and Gleeson share a beyond believable bond and an on-screen chemistry that makes their relationship completely authentic, tugging at the heartstrings without any syrupy pretense. Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Margot Robbie, and Richard Cordery superbly round out the cast.

The soundtrack is a nostalgic blast from a little more than a decade ago. The music is strewn throughout as a gentle reminder to those who might recall a special connection to it over the last 10 years, allowing for a bit of personal framework to set in. Even the estate/cottage-like abode of Tim’s family offers a visual complement that entirely suits the essence of the family residing there.

"About Time" is crafted with a heart that is beyond moving, capturing emotions that stay long after the credits roll. The mechanics of a time travel story can many times feel out of reach, in terms of tangibility. “About Time” makes it feel possible with an indie chic that is strangely relatable.

The time travel used here is more or less, a metaphor for life’s greatest queries. In a film market that focuses so often on the cretins of society, this film centers on the lovely people, the ones worth rooting for, and it’s "about time" they were given a chance to shine. Rating: 9.7/10

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