I reviewed “About Time” for Vox Magazine. You can read my review at the website or below:
“About Time” is not the Richard Curtis film we know and love. Yes, a charming Brit is the hero. Yes, he falls in love with an audacious American. And yes, there is even a hilariously botched wedding. Yet “About Time” shirks the romantic foppery that initially made the director famous and hones in on the emotional sincerity that makes his films classics.
Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is your typical maladroit romantic, but he has inherited a gene that runs in the men of his family — the ability to time travel. Step into any closet (there appears to be a surplus of them in England according to this film), and he can go back to any point in his life and relive or rectify the situation. At first, Tim uses his powers for love by fixing ruined flirtations. Until he meets the wallflower Mary (Rachel McAdams in her third time travel romance) and sees no need to change the situation but only to perfect it.
Their courtship is straightforward, as if Curtis has grown bored with the back-and-forth of his past films, and consequently Mary feels undeveloped. Fortunately, McAdams’ natural charisma saves her character from being just another girlfriend.
However, “About Time“ is not a romantic comedy but a sardonic look at life. Just because Tim is a time traveler does not mean he escapes quotidian pleasures and plights. Gleeson keeps his dilemma down to earth by going from bumbling Hugh Grant stand-in to one of Curtis’ most fully realized protagonists. He has endearingly awkward comic timing but can also convey subtle tenderness and honesty.
A great supporting cast bolsters Gleeson. A surly Tom Hollander plays Tim’s London roommate and adds a good dose of snark to tone down the occasional sentimentality. Yet it’s the delightfully eccentric Bill Nighy, as Tim’s dad, who elevates the film. Their father-and-son dynamic feels authentic even if the reason for it isn’t.
The time travel premise seems like a gimmick because it is. Yet Curtis uses it to mine life for its daily profundities and ultimately makes one of his most realistic films.