Natalie Stendall review - About Time

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Time Travel gets the Richard Curtis treatment in quirky romantic comedy, About Time.

Starring Domhnall Gleeson as the uncomfortable adolescent looking for love, About Time is brimming with Curtis’ (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually) trademark blend of truth, sentimentality and comedy. When Tim (Gleeson) turns twenty-one his father (Bill Nighy) lets him in on the family secret - the men of the family can travel through time.

In typical Curtis style, awkward Tim uses his gift to find love and falls for shy American, Mary,(Rachel McAdams). But a quest for love turns into a much deeper saga about family and attitudes to life in Curtis’ most emotionally charged film to date.

With an opening reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, Curtis entirely immerses his audience in a family of hugely desirable but unusual characters who take tea on the beach every day, no matter what the weather.

Curtis’ trademark ability to make characters with such utterly aspirational lifestyles - large period homes, pie in the sky jobs and quintessentially British pastimes - appealing and real is once more in full force.

Supported by a cast of minor characters with enough intrigue and personality to warrant their own movies - Uncle D (Richard Cordery) and angry playwright, Harry (Tom Hollander), being the most touching and amusing - even About Time’s tiniest scenes are packed with watchability.

About Time might play fast and loose with time travel rules, slipping into plot hole territory with a clunky get-out from Tim’s father around the film’s mid-point, but Curtis claws his film back with a good dash of drama and honest, relatable sentiment.

In fact, the mechanics of Tim’s time travel - the quiet, dark spaces required and the ability to relive, rather than re-watch events as they happened - matter little here, instead, the machinations of fatherson relationships are put under the spotlight.

Nighy is once more on fine form in a Curtis crafted role, giving us an eccentric retiree who plays a good game of table tennis and uses his time travelling gift to read more books.

The chemistry with Gleeson is first rate and Gleeson shines in his first major leading role as Tim gains more confidence with age and develops a life-shaping bond with his father.

About Time makes an unusual turn in shifting from romantic comedy to family saga and the change is not without a somewhat clunky feel. That Rachel McAdams shifts into a supporting role as Nighy takes centre stage adds to a sense of nagging insincerity in the romantic relationship.

That Tim never reveals his time traveling gift to the love of his life feels disingenuous, while About Time skirts around the darker aspects of Tim’s behaviour in contrast to 2012’s Zoe Kazan penned rom-com, Ruby Sparks.

Yet Curtis’ decision not to get distracted with any lasting negative consequences of time travel is also one of About Time’s greatest achievements, bringing relatable messages about the way we live our everyday lives in to focus.

Sweet, honest and deeply moving, About Time is Richard Curtis’ best film yet. Exquisite performances from Gleeson and Nighy make this movie about family ties emotional and real as well as perfectly comic.

This year’s stand out rom-com, About Time leaves us with a very well-timed message about living life to the full and looking forward instead of back.

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 123 minutes

Verdict: 4/5