Review: ‘About Time’ – It’s about life, not technicalities

“About Time” stars Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams.

Courtesy Photo

What’s this? A time-travel movie without a time-machine, a souped-up Delorean, or any other sort of time-warping gizmo technology? Heresy! Well, no, the British film, “About Time,” is actually a pretty decent movie, and hopefully it will make you think more about life, love and how you spend your valuable time on Earth than the story’s self-imposed rules regarding space and time; rules that it haphazardly breaks – repeatedly.

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) has just turned 21 and to mark the occasion his father (Bill Nighy) tells him a mysterious family secret; that all of the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time and potentially alter their lives. The catch is that they cannot travel forward in time, but I’m telling you in advance to forget any of the time-traveling technicalities put forth this film, because it makes its own rules, and then promptly breaks them.

To travel through time, all Tim has to do is go into a dark quiet place, make fists with his hands, and think about the time and place he wants to return to. Of course, like most 21-year-old men would do, Tim uses his power to try and obtain a girlfriend.

The first target of his affection is Charlotte (Margot Robbie), one of his sister’s friends, but after his attempts to seduce her fail, he then turns to Mary (Rachel McAdams, who you’ll recognize from the Sherlock Holmes films), an American woman he meets and falls in love with in some kind of strange nightclub with no lights (literally – it’s completely dark).

After several missteps, the young man eventually uses his time-traveling powers to win over the very appealing Mary, and after a close encounter with Charlotte, Tim comes to the realization that Mary is the girl of his dreams and the two marry and start a family.

Tim also uses his powers to change the bad reviews of his playwright friend, alter his sister’s life and other benevolent comedic endeavors. But eventually, his dad convinces him the best use of his gift is to simply relish his life and make the most of every moment.

It’s hard to be negative about a film in which you can’t help but love all the well-written and finely portrayed characters and that has such an overall positive message, especially when part of that message is that you should savor things for what they are, without trying to change them. So for those reasons I’m reluctantly willing to give “About Time” a pass on the many conceptual errors regarding its own time-travel rules – especially the convoluted one about sperm cells.

This film is written and directed by Richard Curtis, the filmmaker responsible for other British fare like “Love Actually,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill.” If you enjoyed his previous work, then you will probably really like “About Time” as well.

Besides its time-traveling errors, my only other major complaint with this movie is its running time of 123 minutes. It could probably have been shaved a good 20 percent and would have been a much tighter, less meandering story – one that probably could have avoided its space/time pitfalls as well.

“About Time” is a fine and funny date film that should prompt some interesting after-movie conversations about the way you approach your daily life and what you would or wouldn’t do if you could go back and change it. Grade: 7/10

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