Title: About Time
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Drama
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Music: Nick Laird-Clowes
Cinematography: John Guleserian
Richard E. Grant
ABOUT TIME is one half snappy romance and another half family drama which lures us into the tutelage of some very beneficial “Chicken Soup for the Soul“ truisms like “value your life and live everyday fully”, “notice the beauty in the small things around you” and “be brave to say goodbye to the beloved and move on”, such and such. And under the sine qua non of a time-travel set-up.
At the age of 21, Tim (Gleeson in his breakthrough leading man offer), a clumsy young Brit learns from his father (Nighy) that all men in his family can travel in time (with certain limitation for sure). So with this windfall fate-altering gift, Tim starts to woo Mary, the girl of his dream, and eventually they get married and babies are coming on the way.
On the face value, the film is tremendously entertaining and heart-warming, Tim’s naturalistic maladroitness proffers enough ballast for repeating his one-trick pony to finally win Mary over, along the way there are laughters galore; the family bond is also capaciously constructed between Tim and his father, and a detour to save his sister Kit Kat (Wilson) from wrong choices in her life.
The biggest revelation of the time-travel theory comes after Tim has fixed Kit Kat’s past by going back to the timeline before the conception of Tim and Mary’s first baby, when he jumps back, the process has altered the baby’s gender. Then immediately after that scene Tim manages to miraculously change everything back to normal, so clearly this “no pre-baby travel” rule can be amended afterwards. Which drastically conflicts with the eventual dilemma of choosing between going back to visit his deceased father and having a baby no. 3 after his dad’s death, for the reason that he can reverse the repercussion of the butterfly effects whatsoever (as he did in the case of Kit Kat).
I’m not nitpicking (as I am more than happier to overlook the technicality of time-travel experience, take one example, how come Kit Kat gets a hunch that she is in love with Jay after they went back to the past and altered their fate, while Tim is oblivious of his newborn baby’s gender until he sees him with his own eyes?), but the film is deeply flawed in a logic stand-point and this plot-hole is too glaring to overlook, which does hurt the movie’s empathy in its final stage. Alas, the performances are generally favourable, Nighy surges into my Supporting Actor chart as a benevolent father figure, immensely understanding and reasonable, passes on his wisdom (which accumulated through ages) with coherent delivery, and as the sole theory elucidator, he is the one attracts the most amount of interest on screen (although he should have warned his son about the rule beforehand, which would save the film from its paradoxical miasma).
Gleeson and McAdams makes a fitting couple, although for the latter, it is her third time being the girl of a time-traveler (after Eric Bana and Owen Wilson), her American sweetheart default and clever dressing choice remarkably masks the age difference, while a babyface Gleeson doesn’t truly reflect the passing years in the narrative. There are also several interesting secondary players, the sexy bomb Margot Robbie appears as Tim’s unrequited love interest, Lindsay Duncan sheds a light of coolness as Tim’s unwitting mother, and Tom Hollander is the swearing playwright with a cynical bad temper. ABOUT TIME is Oscar-nominated writer Richard Curtis’ third venture (the man who writes MR. BEAN series, BRIDGET JONES series, NOTTING HILL 1999, and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL 1994) as a director (after LOVE ACTUALLY 2003 and PIRATE RADIO 2009), no wonder it is such a successful crowd-pleaser and even a tearjerker, only if its content could have made more sense out of the infinite loop impedes the time travel sub-genre.