by Hope Madden
Even if you’re not a romantic comedy fan, it’s hard to dislike Love Actually, right? Sure, pieces of writer/director/Brit Richard Curtis’s film drag. Still, the fact that so many story lines – big and small – fit together so nicely, telling tales of heartache as well as true love, helps to make it an entertaining gem. So, why not give About Time – the latest from its creator – a shot?
Well, actually, it helps if you are not a fan of romantic comedies because, regardless of the marketing campaign, that label fits this film loosely at best.
About Time is perhaps the most understated time travel movie ever. The Lake family has a secret. Their men can travel – briefly and with very mild manners – through time. One New Year’s Day, this intel is passed from father (Bill Nighy – hooray!) to son (and unrepentant ginger), Tim (Domnhall Gleeson – son of the great character actor Brendan Gleeson, but best known as a Weasley boy from Harry Potter).
Tim mostly uses his power to improve his luck with girls, though he fails as often as succeeds because Richard Curtis loves adorably, politely, pitifully smitten Brits.
Tim’s big success is the love of his life, Mary (Rachel McAdams, aggressively adorable, as always).
Surprisingly enough, that is not true because bumbling awkwardly but endearingly toward true love is not the film’s real focus.
Rather, Curtis’s interest lies on the fringes of Tim’s life, with everyone and everything he fails to notice because of his dogged attention to his pursuit of true love. And in the end, that’s what Curtis wants of us: to slow down and notice everything. Live life fully and you won’t need time travel to go back and fix things.
If that sounds trite and patronizing, credit Curtis for developing it at a leisurely enough pace and with sound enough acting that it does not feel that way. The life lessons Tim learns are thoughtful, and Gleeson’s performance sells the tenderness and the hard-won wisdom.
What it doesn’t really settle is the almost creepy dishonesty of Tim’s wooing of Mary, and for all of the rest of the film’s Nice Guy Tim-isms, it’s hard to look past the SciFi trickery he utilizes to dupe this woman into loving him.
But I suppose you can look past that, since the romance is hardly the point. Unless you’re a fan of romantic comedies, in which case, may I recommend Love Actually?