“For me, it was always going to be about love.” So spouts the protagonist of About Time, the romantic comedy illustrating a young man’s inherited ability to travel through time. If you had the same gift, would you use it as wisely?
Tim, played to great success by Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, learns on his 21st birthday that all the men in his family can travel through time. The revelation comes as a surprise since Tim’s father has led a relatively “normal” life, at least in the traditional sense. He lives with his wife, his two children, Tim and Kit Kat, and Uncle Desmond (of an ambiguous relation). He reads constantly, plays with his children and spends Friday evenings drinking tea and watching a movie with the gang. When Dad explains Tim’s newfound power to him, he also delineates the stipulations. Tim can only go where he has existed before; he cannot go back and “kill Hitler” or “sleep with Helen of Troy” as his father commiserates. His father warns him against using it for money, since he doesn’t know a single wealthy person who is truly happy, but that never proves a weakness for Tim anyhow. He yearns for love. At the moment of his 21st birthday, his deepest desire is for a swell girlfriend.
After falling in love with Charlotte (Margot Robbie), a vivacious blonde who stays with the family over the summer, but being ultimately unable to seduce her despite his power, Tim moves to London to begin his career as a lawyer and search for romance. His dreams are answered, as dreams so often are, by Rachel McAdams.
I call her Rachel McAdams here, because she plays in this film, as she always does, herself. The screenwriters can maintain that she’s “insecure” because she has a new “fringe,” but Rachel McAdams is not insecure. She can have bangs for days, but she knows at the end of the day she is hot shit. We just as easily could have been watching “Becky Fuller” from Morning Glory, “Clare” from The Family Stone, “Claire Cleary” from Wedding Crashers or “Lisa Reisert” from Red Eye. All characters are as follows: Rachel McAdams playing Rachel McAdams.
Regardless, “Mary” surfaces as just the woman for Tim. She is charming in her tactlessness, her overeager smile and her instant attachment to him. Although obstacles appear, Tim weds Mary and the film follows his life with her, their children and Tim’s family in Cornwall. The theme, as typical as it is ever-present, begs viewers to live life to the fullest and recognize that “love actually is all around us.” Wait, that’s another film. The two are certainly comparable. Sorry, Hugh Grant.
I attended the film with my friend Tay-Bo, and despite its inherently corny message, we both found About Time exceptionally engaging. Although Tay explained its likability was equated with the protagonists’ “gangly ging[er]” physical characteristics, I would argue you do not need to be a redhead lover to enjoy it. Domhnall Gleeson is fantastic, ideally suited to play an awkward, childlike, loving man. Nearly every character in the film is just as delightful. Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) steals every scene as the wild, passionate, tender-hearted little sister. Unfortunately susceptible to the wiles of boyfriend Jimmy Kincade, Kit Kat proclaims herself to be the “faller” of the family, the one who, despite everyone’s best efforts, cannot succeed. Tim, loving brother that he is, goes back in time with her so that she never meets her selfish boyfriend.
Upon the disastrous results of the switch, Tim realizes that Kit Kat has to date Jimmy, otherwise, everything in his life would be different. Instead, Tim (upon excellent advice from Rachel McAdams) waits for Kit Kat to realize herself that she cannot date him anymore—she must pull her life together.
The film makes the obvious point that life has struggles even in the best of circumstances, but that you handle difficulties as best you can and make the most of your moments with the ones you love. As I review the film’s themes, it seems impossible that I liked About Time, because it was so unbelievably clichéd—but I did. The characters are charming and quirky in seemingly unrehearsed ways.
This is not a typical blockbuster formulaic family; it is an “every-person” family. In the father I recognized my father’s perpetual inclination towards tea, books and lengthy conversations with his kids. The relationship between Kit Kat and Tim reminded me of my sister’s unsurpassed ability for enthusiasm and my brother’s obsession with snuggle-wrestling. The most surprising illumination resulted from Tim’s relationship with his own kids, reminiscent of my other brother and his two little girls. Who knew About Time would not foster an interest in falling in love but recollect my incapability for any type of independence from my family?
As I mentioned earlier, the inclusion of Rachel McAdams as a protagonist undoubtedly hurts the narrative following the love story. The film succeeds in spite of her strange bodily gestures and valley girl speak, not because of it. I do not want to completely knock her acting abilities because she is incredibly consistent in her exhibition of the same characteristics in all of her roles, but I do think her lack of range was highlighted by the talented actors around her.
The most apt way to describe About Time is “sweet.” The love story between husband and wife, father and son, and a man and his family is archaic. However, the sweetness does not counteract the film’s significance. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of what is truly important in life. The film is especially successful because it does not hit audiences over the head with its theme, but rather the narrative rings so true that viewers can intuit the message themselves.