Rating: More pedestrian than sophisticated, it still produces a warm glow.
Director Richard Curtis’ About Time is a small, flawed British film about finding meaning in our small, flawed lives. Centering on supernatural issues involving male family members having the ability to travel back in time, it reminds us that yesterday is not as fundamentally important as today.
Simply stated, this film is a guilty pleasure. Filmed in and around London, its strengths come from the performance of the immensely talented Bill Nighy and the actress every mother dreams of their son marrying, Rachel McAdams.
Mr. Nighy, a retired English gentleman, lives with his family in a charming home on the sea while spending all of his time reading. At a critical moment, he tells his son, played in an annoying fashion by Domhnall Gleeson, that men in their family have a secret. More to the point, when they reach 21 years of age, they have the ability to go back in time, confined solely to a period within their own life. As Mr. Nighy bluntly puts it, “You can’t go back and kill Hitler.”;
The film suffers greatly when Nighy is not on screen, which unfortunately is most of the time. His goofy son is a lawyer for completely unknown reasons, and he suffers from his own recognized inability to date. You can’t help but conclude that the poor guy has a profound personality disorder.
As you might guess, he meets Ms. McAdams, and love blossoms. Though you really don’t know what she sees in him, he’s able to make sure they have great sex on the first night they spend in her condominium. On the other hand, if we could all relive that moment with an ability to immediately revisit the past, intercourse would be as easy as brushing our teeth.
There are a number of confusing characters in this movie, not the least of whom is Kit Kat, Gleeson’s sister. Played by Lydia Wilson, she has no problem dating, though it’s usually with a complete jerk. Leave it to her brother to try to help her in an all too obvious fashion.
The film rallies from its weaknesses as Nighy discovers he is dying. There is a moment when he and his son are actively engaged in a favorite game of ping pong, something that I repeatedly played with my father as a kid. For a moment I felt like I was the one who had gone back in time.
As Ms. McAdams and Mr. Gleeson have several children, the film reaches a conclusion that is worth remembering. We should all live today with grace and good humor, as the present will soon become a history that our children will cherish.