Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Time In

Love Actually is a sentimental favorite with many people (myself included). Not long ago, I watched a more recent effort from its writer and director, Richard Curtis: About Time.

The film is the story of young Tim Lake, who after his 21st birthday is informed by his father that the men of his family have the ability to travel backward in time within their own lifetimes. Tim immediately tries using the power to get a girlfriend, only to learn that saying the right thing at the right time isn't going to help if it's not said to the right girl. And even once Tim finally does meet "the one," he faces surprising struggles even with his unique gift on his side.

For anyone familiar with the melange of emotions and relationships blended together in Love Actually, it would not be surprising to learn that my above summary of the plot of About Time only scratches the surface. I've possibly made it sound a bit like Groundhog Day... which, early on, it certainly seemed like the movie aims to be. Then it seems like the movie might be a sort of black comedy or comedy of errors, as Tim's efforts to "fix" one problem only create another in its place. But no... the movie wasn't trying to be a rom-com Final Destination about the inexorability of fate, either.

Actually, the film rambles around a bit, flirting with a few different ideas, before finally sneaking up on its real message in the final act. And while I would readily concede that its hardly the most original point in the history of cinema, the circumspect journey makes it a quite touching one. It was like unwrapping a present, and being genuinely surprised by the well-thought out gift inside.

The cast helps make the movie shine. Tim is played by Domhnall Gleeson, appearing here before his breakout year that would see him in everything. He's pleasantly awkward at first and increasingly confident over time -- the best parts of Woody Allen or Hugh Grant, minus the grating neuroses. Rachel McAdams is charming and a touch sarcastic (so, even more charming) as love interest Mary, in a role that picks up a fish-out-of-water quality within this British film. Past Curtis collaborator Bill Nighy is excellent as the father, capturing both the lightness and the sentiment when the movie calls for each in turn.

This movie fell just outside my top 100 list, but it still made me smile (and ultimately, moved me) enough to give it an A. It's simply a clever approach to a familiar message.

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