Director/writer Richard Curtis (2003’s Love Actually) steps up his game in the romantic comedy genre by adding a more serious underlying theme in About Time. His typical rom-com flair is pushed to the side a bit in order to unveil a more mature and serious subject that shows how important it is to live each day as your last.
Of course, there are a few fantastic (not cheesy) romantic moments in the film, but its clear that Curtis decided early on that the main focus would be on a father and son.
Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers after an uneventful New Year’s Eve that the men in his family can travel through time. Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells him that although he can’t change history, he can change what happens and what has happened in his own life. At the age of 21, Tim moves from Cornwall, England to London to pursue his career as a lawyer. There he meets the lovely Mary (Rachel McAdams) by bumping into her at one of those dark dining restaurants. The two immediately click and she gives him her number, but after a particular time travel event that happens, it’s as if Tim never met her at all.
By the basic plot, it seems like About Time is a mixture of 2009’s The Time Traveler’s Wife and 2012’s The Vow, which coincidentally both star McAdams. The first act of About Time focuses on the young couple in love, while the second act is more about the consequences of time travel and terminal illness. Though the screenplay finds a way to miraculously blend both stories together, about three-fourths of the way through it feels a tad bit too long.
Gleeson (2012’s Anna Karenina) gives the performance of his career as the nerdy and cautious Tim, one that ranks among the year’s most engaging turns. His character is so appealing and likable that almost anyone can relate to him at some point during the two-hour long film.
We know that Rachel McAdams (2013’s To The Wonder) can pull on our heartstrings and deliver the quintessential performance by a female in a romantic comedy. Here the actress is used as a supporting character that manages to steal every scene she’s in and gives her character a relatable vulnerability.
About Time has some wonderfully romantic scenes between Gleeson and McAdams who have impeccable chemistry, but the film is more about the importance of family versus the romantic comedy aspect. The best scene of the movie is of Tim and his father on the beach, and odds are there won’t be a dry eye in the house when you leave the theater.
Curtis’s About Time differs from other traditional rom-coms, as it is a sweet sentimental story of boy meets girl just as much as it is about a loving father and son.