If only life were like a Richard Curtis screenplay, filled
with a sweet spirit and engagingly quirky characters. That’s why we go to the
movies, and About Time provides the
kind of escapism so many people seek. Likable Domhnall Gleeson (son of the
formidable actor Brendan Gleeson) reboots the self-deprecating role model
created by Hugh Grant in Curtis’ earliest big-screen successes (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill)
and finds an adorably appealing soul mate in Rachel McAdams. And there’s a new
wrinkle this time around: upon turning 21, Gleeson learns from his father (the
indispensable Bill Nighy) that all the men in their family have the ability to
travel back in time, at least in their own lifespan. This means that Gleeson
can perform an endless series of “do-overs,” which gives About Time an ingenious and original comic device, built around the
most irresistible commodity any movie can offer: wish fulfillment. It’s only
toward the end of the picture, when Curtis suddenly introduces limits on this
power that the story logic goes askew.
Mind you, this is not the kind of movie that invites, or could likely withstand, close scrutiny. It’s an excuse to allow attractive people to flirt, fall in love, and deal with some of life’s slings and arrows. The fantasy element softens some of the harsher blows, in keeping with the writer-director’s upbeat worldview.
About Time loses its sure-footedness in the final act, but a lovely scene with Nighy sets it right and leaves us with a warm feeling. Not many films can accomplish that, which is why this one is so welcome, warts and all.