A deserving place among the heartwarming escapist films that audiences are always craving.
Richard Curtis, the sentimental writer/director behind charming British rom-coms Love Actually, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary, is easily England’s male Nora Ephron. His films burst with dry British humor and bashful lovable socially awkward leads. In Time gives every indication it’s setting out to be another cute tale of romance, but is instead a touching embrace of life and the many moments that make it up.
In the way of warning, let it be said that those concerned more about space-time continuums or time travel paradoxes would best either leave their sense of logic at the theatre door or simply pass on this film. This isn’t a sci-fi film with a dose of romance, it’s a romance with a dose of sci-fi. On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is called in by his father (Bill Nighy) for a father-son chat wherein he learns that the men in his family have always had the unique ability to travel in time through their own lives upon turning 21. Skeptical at first, Tim soon finds this to be true and promptly fixes the rather disappointing end to a New Year’s party in his recent past. While they do address the butterfly effect and the many implications of time travel, it’s quickly dismissed as something that hasn’t seemed to manifest as a problem. Warned against the dangers of using his new gift for monetary gain or other worldly things, Tim decides instead that what he really wants is a girlfriend. He sets his sights on his sister’s visiting girlfriend. Flashing back in time to fix every little flub and embarrassment, he learns that he can travel through time as much as he wants, but nothing can make a person fall in love with you if they were never meant to. Thus he embarks on his adult life, moving to London to live with an ornery playwright and one fateful night he meets the girl of his dreams, Mary (Rachel McAdams), and she seems just as interested as he is. But when uses his ability to help a friend, he mistakenly erases their meeting and has to start again.
Mary and Tim’s romance, while cute, isn’t ultimately the love story that makes this movie worth watching. Even the time travel element, an endearing comic device, doesn’t use it’s full potential for mishaps and mayhem. Instead it’s Bill Nighy’s wry, book-loving father who ends up being the emotional core of the film. His encouragement of his son, and even his guidance in how to use this gift of theirs to appreciate every moment of life, repeatedly, teach a lesson in true love. Gleeson is perfectly cast as the goofy geek who seems to always have trouble in love in these movies, and yet who every woman in the theater has been pining to meet. He’s easy to cheer for and charming to watch. McAdams has played this role more than once and continues to be enchanting, if not necessarily innovative.
Curtis has proven he can build on his reputation for romantic comedy. While I certainly don’t recommend he try penning the next great sci-fi romance, he’s successfully added another layer of emotional depth to his usual repertoire. About Time has a deserving place among the heartwarming escapist films that audiences are always craving.