All families have their secrets. Probably none quite like the Lake family though. When Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21, his father (Bill Nighy) takes him aside to reveal that the men in their family have the ability to travel in time – though only to a place/time that they have already been.
Tim, always the romantic (or at least a want-to-be romantic), immediately thinks about how this unexpected gift can help him find love by creating some second chances. Eventually that love comes in the form of Mary (Rachel McAdams). As Tim’s father puts it, though, it’s going to be a complicated life.
It’s not the first movie to involve some sort of time travel and romance. The Lake House, Groundhog Day, and The Time Traveler’s Wife all come to mind. Like those films, About Time puts the emotional aspects ahead of the scientific Primer or Looper this is not. While in my opinion, the rules of time travel set down by the premise are not fatally broken by the plot, others would disagree with me. This is primarily due the the fact that rules are rather vague to begin with, and the method defined no more than “go in a dark place, clench you fists, and imagine where you want to end up.” This is a love story with a fantastical catalyst, not hard science fiction that involves romance. If you can accept the film for what it is, it’s actually rather good, though not particularly special.
As Tim navigates his way through his unexpectedly interesting life, love is the one thing that he chooses to guide him through most of his quantum mechanical decisions. Whether it is romantic love, friendship, or his relationship with his family, it’s always there. It’s something of an ongoing theme, and this film doesn’t hid from that fact in the least bit.
The biggest thing that struck me as the film wrapped up is that it’s – minor spoiler – almost totally a feel good flick. Often times when dealing with either romance or time travel, not to mention both, there are some disastrous moments that threaten to rip apart the fabric of relationships and/or space-time. About Time goes easy on the drama though, focusing on the positive and only allowing melancholy to seep through when needed for contrast and meaning.
It doesn’t have the ensemble cast that Richard Curtis‘s Love Actually – the director’s film most often brought up in About Time marketing – does, so it feels a bit more self contained, despite the potential for becoming a sprawling butterfly effect tale. Once again, though that fact may bother those who care more about the theoretical aspects of the film than the romance, it serves the story well, focusing in on the few main characters.
I kept expecting to be hit with a devastating twist or shocking reveal, but that never really happens. There are some emotional turns, to be sure, but nothing too extreme. And that’s OK. Not everything has to be Inception. This is a perfectly adequate and nicely positive film, and you can’t really go wrong watching it. It has great heart but doesn’t quite push through to be something extra special.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“It was sweet and beautiful, and I really liked it.”
My rating: Three out of five hats
About Time travels into 175 theaters, November 1