About Time


Domhnall Gleeson as Tim
Rachel McAdams as Mar
Bill Nighy as Tim’s father
Lydia Wilson as Kit Kat
Lindsay Duncan as Tim’s mother
Tom Hollander as Harry
Vanessa Kirby as Joanna
Margot Robbie as Charlotte
Tom Hughes as Jimmy
Catherine Steadman as Tina
Richard Cordery as Uncle Desmond
Will Merrick as Jay
Joshua McGuire as Rory
Richard Griffiths as Sir Tom
Richard E. Grant as Actor

Time travel, as a plot device, tends to carry with it a lot of expository baggage, every story offering its own take on the method, administration and consequences thereof. It comes with some relief, then, that writer-director Richard Curtis — best known for his modern romantic classic, “Love Actually” — has not only kept the temporal rules of “About Time” rather simple, but also positions the infinitely affable Bill Nighy to handle the whys and wherefores. His character explains to his son, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), at film’s onset, that men in their family have the unique ability to return to and relive any point in their own life and that, with that ability, they have the power to fix things for the better.

Gleeson, best known before now for his role as Bill Weasley in both “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” films, immediately proves himself a more than capable leading man, blending both honesty and awkwardness into a down-to-Earth charisma that makes his Tim a man difficult not to root for and well-suited to find his on-screen soul mate in Rachel McAdams’ adorably human Mary. As lovely as the sci-fi tinged courting plays out on screen, however, “About Time” is as different as a love story as it is as a time travel tale. That’s because, at its heart, the film is less about boy-meets-girl and more about the love between a father and a son.

In a performance worthy of some serious Awards consideration, Nighy (credited only as “Dad”) manages to effortlessly convey a true lifetime on the screen, serving as a father, mentor and friend to his son. It’s the parallels between Tim and his father that solidify as the heart of “About Time,” reminding the audience of the wonderful notion that we do have, in our memories, the ability to traverse time itself and, in becoming a part of the memories of those we love, the ability to live forever.

There is a somewhat troubling aspect of the film in that, in delivering a perfect look at the love between a father and son, it winds up sacrificing that same bond between its central lovers. Because he keeps his unique ability a secret shared only with his father, Tim’s relationship with Mary is never allowed to achieve the same level of honesty and Tim’s alterations to the timeline to win her favor could be considered quite close to immoral as a result.

Although it’s certainly possible to leave the theater with some legitimate questions about the specifics of Tim’s abilities, to turn “About Time” into No-Prize fodder would be to miss Curtis’ bigger metaphor about the timelessness of human memory and the importance of each and every moment. As Tim’s father explains to him in the film, time travel is best utilized as a means of savoring one’s own history, reliving each day and celebrating all the best parts. Even if you don’t find yourself falling wholly in love with “About Time,” it’s a good bet you’ll find moments that will tug on your heartstrings and that you’ll want to return to time and again.