About Time (2013)
Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy. Written and Directed by Richard Curtis.
Tim Lake is just out of college and set to begin a career as a lawyer, moving to London from his family’s seaside home in Cornwall. His father has recently told him that the men in the family have the ability to travel in time, but only to places and times they’ve already been. An inordinately happy and peaceful man, Tim’s father strongly advises against using this ability to pursue money or fame. When Tim meets Mary at one of those dining-in-complete-darkness establishments, he falls in love and uses his skill to make things work (eventually) in his favor.
This is not at all the movie you think it is, with lots of traveling back and forth in time to make things work out okay–there is a kind of Butterfly Effect consideration, but that’s not where the real story lives. Instead, it imagines what you might use this skill for if things were already pretty much okay, or if the ability to move back in time weren’t enough to change some of the things you really want to change. Tim learns early that traveling in time won’t give him everything he wants, and ultimately certain people he cares about are saved by the love that motivates the main character. There is never really a cliffhanger moment of climax here; what we get instead is a nice, sweet movie about a man with a talent, and how the person wielding the talent is the critical element, not the talent itself. The greatest power of the atomic bomb was in its ability to convince us never to use it again. Tim’s time-travel isn’t exactly like that, for in his hands it is not at all a destructive force, but it makes you consider how good life is without it.
Domnhall Gleeson plays Tim, and you’ve seen him as Bill Weasley in the final two Harry Potter movies. He and Rachel McAdams as Mary are wonderfully cast, playing young twenty-somethings with energy and sweetness, with wit and flirtiness and all the things that make you root for a young couple. They slide nicely into what must be their early thirties as the film moves along, and they are as likeable a pair as I’ve seen in a while. If you, like I, have been somewhat put off by McAdams’s recent efforts, here is a movie for you. And if you don’t love Bill Nighy, who plays Tim’s father, by the time this film is over, there’s just no hope for you. Nighy is almost always the best thing about any movie he is in, and this film continues the streak. If you’ve been missing the character he plays in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, grab this movie because here he mostly is again.
There are some films that seem to evade major mainstream success, and then to find their audiences slowly, over several years, as people who need to see them stumble upon them somewhere, and as word spreads gradually by people who’ve been touched by them. I can see all kinds of people whose tastes normally line up close to mine not enjoying this movie as much as I do, at least for the moment. But with absolutely nothing to support my suspicion, I have a feeling About Time is one of those movies. I found myself making all kinds of resolutions about my life, and how I’m going to change the way I think about the daily experiences of my existence, every time I saw this, and I’ve now seen it three times. It is objectively quite a good film. However, I’m throwing objectivity out the window and saying that I just love this movie, and I think there’s a fair chance anyone reading this (with the exception of one friend who I think will merely find it unobjectionable) will love it too. This movie makes me want to believe all the things my mildly cynical heart has slowly begun to crystalize against; it loosens up all the scar tissue, all the adhesions where I’ve Scotch-taped some of the wounds together so they won’t let anything in or out, and makes me think this second half of my life might possibly be better than the first.