by staff writer Karina “KarinaCinerina” Montgomery
Personal Rating: Full Price Feature
Movies like this make me glad that I have a forum to promote them, because from the outside, this looks like Rachel McAdams gets Groundhog Dayed into falling for a ginger schlub (Domhnall Gleeson, a.k.a. Bill Weasley). While it should come as no surprise that the driving engine for Gleeson’s actions in Act I are McAdams, the rest of the film surprises with a fuller story of a young man finding the power within himself to live his life fully. And that power is time travel.
One fateful day, Gleeson is told by his father (Bill Nighy, delightfully twinkly) that the men in their family have the ability to travel through time. Only can they do so in their own life experiences, and only backward, but they have the power to undo mistakes or decisions and change things – some in very unexpected ways. (No, their last name is not Mulligan.) How Gleeson uses this to meet and succeed with McAdams isn’t even really a cheating of fate, because their original, wholly original and splendid first meeting shows him and all of us that these two just fit naturally together, regardless of any timestream shenanigans. It doesn’t hurt that the actors themselves have an easy, charming chemistry.
Then the quandaries start popping up. Fix the thing that happened, miss out on the other things. Reset your changes here, screw up the fix there. His time jumps threaten to unravel some pretty major life achievements and your stomach clenches along with his fists as he sends himself to save one person, then restore another. Nighy, meanwhile, quietly hovers in the background, noticing the signs left by Gleeson’s meddling. As Gleeson & McAdam’s life progresses, one wonders whether we’re being set up for a huge loss or a huge win. As it turns out, a little of both. Let’s say I cried a lot and I walked out feeling all warm and fuzzy.
Writer/Director Richard Curtis (Love, Actually, Notting Hill) puts his signature stamp on this film – a male protagonist that’s about interpersonal relationships (romance, family) in a story that also fairly weighs women. Curtis has always been brilliant at that balance, creating iconic “chick flicks for men” and revealing the universal truths of the lovely pain of love, not just the drunken headiness of it. This story feels more personal than most, which is saying something. The sci-fi or supernatural aspect of it (merely a plot element, as in Sliding Doors) is secondary to the lives touched by it, but serves as a lovely catalyst for mindfulness for those who cannot revisit their pasts.
In the cast, we have ex-Mr. Collins Tom Holland as Gleeson’s curmudgeonly uncle who is a perfect anti-model for Gleeson’s life, and Lindsay Duncan as the opposite of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as Gleeson’s mother, being lovely and wonderful counterpoints to the secret society formed by Gleeson and Nighy. The late Richard Griffiths has a brief but charming cameo with Richard E. Grant that fans of both will love. About Time is nothing like the forgettable movie that it has been advertised as. Do see it.
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