Everyone knows of Richard Curtis’ work one way or another – usually more so with a predominant female audience. Those women have usually caught these films when they’ve wanted to watch a cute chick flick with friends or they’ve caught the films on television during a cozy night in. Fellas, most of you have likely been dragged – er, have volunteered – to watch these romances with significant others.
I may sound like I’m pigeonholing Curtis’ career into something that only panders to gender, but consider this a minor backhanded compliment. The British filmmaker makes classic romantic comedies and have swept up audiences with pleasing results. For instance, Love, Actually went on to accumulate a massive audience of men and women and is now essential viewing around Christmas.
About Time can join Love, Actually as a crowd pleasing knock out. This time, he tells a love story that has more science fiction to it – although it’s still all done using his fluffy, smile inducing dominance.
It’s no surprise that the film is adorable in ways only British charm tends to be – more or less acting as a warm fuzzy. The likability laces Curtis’ writing and is in full effect as we root for our good natured ginger leading man Tim Lake (played with all the right stuff by Domhnall Gleeson). He finds out through his father (played by Bill Nighy) that all the men in the Lake family have a knack that allows them to travel through the past and return to the present. Tim’s only wish is to find a girlfriend and hopes this newfound power will give him the extra do-overs he’ll need to impress the ladies.
Soon, he meets Mary (played by Rachel McAdams) and by harmlessly manipulating the past in order to re-capture their first sights of each other, they start to grow fond of one another.
To be blunt, About Time covers its ass quite well when it comes to the film’s time travel explanations. Bringing time travel into any story makes for a daring and sometimes impossible juxtaposition to pull off. Curtis keeps the physics simple and only explains the thoughtful logic when absolutely necessary.
The time traveling leads to situational comedy with easily acceptable sweetness by the performers. Gleeson is amiable as he tries to figure out how to wiggle out of awkward exchanges. His nervous quirks have a good fit within the character and his romance with the equally enjoyable McAdams. The laughs never feel like Curtis is asking too much from his viewers. These are genuine laugh-out-loud moments.
About Time, however, is not afraid to become serious. And when it does, it doesn’t feel like a drastic dampening. Curtis is out to make his audience feel to the point of tears – be prepared. This is a movie where the filmmaker asks if you’re crying yet. If you’re not, he has a final play that will have you choking up.
These more emotional moments aren’t contrived or out of place. I never felt like Curtis was wringing me out for emotion or being too persuasive with this deeper material. He supplies just enough to get his actors working on the other half of the job to truly move the audience – it works in spades.
Whether you’re willingly ready for a warm chick flick or paying back a favour to your partner for taking them to see that glaring action blockbuster, you’ll be taken with About Time. It plays all the right notes without falling into the banalities of a formula. Everyone performs well and the nuances are all spot on and honest.
Days after you see this well made movie, you’ll still hold it higher than any other romantic comedy you’ve seen in recent memory. And, during television re-watches on those cozy nights, I bet you’ll think About Time is still actually a lovely film.