Life is a Do-Over (Film Review: “About Time”)

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A supremely heartfelt story of a young man whose only fervent wish is to find true love, and the super power that allows him to resurrect moments from his life until he gets it just right. If you loved Love Actually, you’ll fall in love all over again, and again, and again with About Time.

SnapShot Plot

For the countless devotees who’ve made Love Actually a cult classic, the planets came back into alignment – this time with a gentle supernatural bent – in 2013’s About Time, again written and directed by Richard Curtis (best known for his screenplays for Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Four Weddings & A Funeral). An impressive cast led by Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, with support from venerable actors Bill Nighy and Lindsay Duncan, uncovers that vintage Curtis sweet spot where British eccentricity meets unabashed romanticism in the love story of Tim and Mary.

Tim is the spindly, introspective son and brother in a quirky but loving Cornwall family, in which on the occasion of his 21st birthday, his father (played by the inimitable Bill Nighy) explains to him the strange power shared by all male members of the family: the ability to travel back in time. With a few caveats of warning about the limitations on the power and words of caution about its ethical usage, Tim sets off to start his life in London, where he meets a soft-spoken, slightly shy American named Mary. The instant chemistry between Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams, mixed with the right degree of oddball, self-deprecating humor make for an intoxicating journey back and forth in time, as these two people so destined for each other navigate the ups and downs of their life together. The only catch? Mary can never know the truth of Tim’s strange power. And Tim must surrender to the fact that, in the end, Time is finite for us all.

 

 

Parting Shot

There’s a scene in About Time in which Tim realizes that his time-travelling misstep has erased from the ledger his first meeting with Mary, and that he’s got to somehow recreate a different way to ‘meet’ her all over again. Maybe it’s the way the scene’s lit, or its her mousy haircut and glasses, or even her name. . . it struck me as so reminiscent of the classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. This might seem off the mark, but in a very real way, isn’t George Bailey himself a time traveler, as he literally goes back through the years to see what the world would have been if he’d never been born? The most crushing moment is when the panicked George spots the ‘spinster’ Mary emerging from her library job, and literally pounces on her in desperate recognition, which of course terrorizes the poor woman into a faint. Here it was a fleeting moment, but one of palpable emotion.

It seems the world is split in two between die-hard fans of 2003’s Love Actually and those to whom that movie’s (at times) treacly sentimentality threatened to put them into a diabetic coma. Personally, I fall more into the latter category, except for the dazzling performances of Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and the late great Alan Rickman, who just about saved the movie from the artificially sweetened dustbin of history. Not so in About Time; I bought my ticket and stayed on the ride all the way to the end credits with those typical Richard Curtis screen shots of total strangers doing average stuff around the world. Which begs the raison d’etre of the story itself. As Tim’s father makes abundantly clear, underscored and perfected by his son’s own approach to life, the key is not to second-guess or re-hash one’s life; rather, it’s about living it honestly, in the moment, the first time around.

About Time is presently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7A810duHvw

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