Turning 21, Tim (Gleeson) discovers he has inherited the ability to travel in time from his father (Nighy). He decides he must use this gift in pursuit of life's greatest treasure: love
A time-travel movie, starring a young red-headed guy and an old fella with crazy hair? If Richard Curtis’ About Time sounds like the aborted Eric Stoltz incarnation of Back To The Future, you need to park your DeLorean at the door. There will be no burning tyres, high-speed skateboarding or Huey Lewis here. Where Zemeckis floored it at 88 mph, Curtis’ tale unfolds at more like 30 mph. Both, though, ponder many of the same questions and have that rare ability to make you think and feel at the same time.
About Time is a quintessentially Curtis joint, with all the inherent baggage — good and bad — that that label flags up. There will be heart-on-sleeve emotion. There will be an array of supporting characters you’ll either want to cuddle or smack in the face. There will be a hot American woman and her unlikely British suitor. There will be delirious swearing. And, of course, there will be rain. Lots of rain.
If all the above makes you want to reach for the insulin then you should on paper, though not in reality, pass. (You should also probably question your life-view, but let’s not get started on all that.) And if you are of the camp that has enjoyed Curtis ever since Four Weddings And A Funeral, and hadn’t even noticed his propensity to drift into disproportionately high lovey-doviness at times, then you’re in for an absolute treat.
For About Time is Curtis’ most interesting, mature, profound and deeply moving movie. It also features some cracking gags about oral sex, and the funniest sex scene since Emma Thompson got a piece of toast stuck to her arse-cheek in The Tall Guy.
What’s most impressive is how Curtis backs up his pre-release claims of this being a movie based in his universe but also a progression of it. He may have cast pretty much the most adorable romantic leading lady working today (Rachel McAdams, delivering yet another you’d-marry-her-in-a-heartbeat performance), but in truth, Curtis is only temporarily concerned with whether our lovable hero can win his Yankee damsel’s hand. In this, Curtis’ ambitious magnum opus, his guy gets his girl, loses her and gets her back before we’ve even hit the halfway mark.
The real focus is on fathers and sons. And in Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson, a none more British Dad and his Boy, Curtis has found a winning formula to stitch into one that has already worked so well for him for years. Gleeson is terrific, both as the early hormonal dork pining after girls so far out of his league they may as well be aliens, and as the latter part of the movie’s magnetic grown-up. Nighy’s scatty charisma, meanwhile, is the perfect foil. And though the movie veers wildly in the early part of its third act (most distracting being an insane and unsuccessful shift into some sort of British Butterfly Effect territory), it is their relationship, a beautifully played mix of contradiction, understanding and affection, that elevates it come the end into something properly wonderful. At once intricately plotted, deceptively simple and proudly British, it’s a romantic Inception — in a tatty jumper.
More than just a time-travel rom-com, this is a movie that asks you questions and doesn't sugar-coat as many of the answers as you'd expect. Smart and sweet, funny and genuinely moving. Should probably come with a 'there's something in my eye' warning.