"“Struggles to take this fascinating and creative premise and make something unique out of it...”"
Though bearing a fun, hypothetical scenario with shades of Groundhog Day prevalent, Richard Curtis' sci-fi, rom-com About Time brings two contrasting genres together somewhat unconvincingly, as this time travelling charmer may begin with a lot of heart, before heading unwittingly into sentimental town. Yeah that's right. Sentimental town.
When turning 21, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is informed by his quirky father (Bill Nighy), that all of the men in their family have the miraculous ability to travel back in time to relive any moment in their own lifetime, needing only to stand in a dark, sheltered place and simply close their eyes and imaging where they wish to travel to. Though aware of the dangers in changing moments from your past, Tim falls in love with Mary (Rachel McAdams), however when his chance passes him by, he uses his special privilege to his advantage, as goes back in time with the aim of seducing the beautiful American, though his straightforward plan poses various issues along the way.
Curtis' writing simply seems to be stuck in this old-fashioned, hackneyed middle class suburbia that doesn't really seem to exist anymore, where everybody is a lawyer, or a playwright or a publisher, and no character feels real enough to believe in. The story itself, despite the unique time travelling elements, feels too similar to Curtis' previous endeavours, as we once again focus on a bumbling, quintessentially English man, falling for a beautiful, elusive American woman. Bleurgh.
About Time is so unsubtle too, as despite bearing a poignant and contemplative narrative, where we are encouraged to celebrate life for all its worth and see the beauty in the most mundane of moments – Curtis proceeds to hammer this gratifying message too forcefully, shoving it down our throats to the point of puking up. Though sincere and earnest in its approach, without fully realising, Curtis is almost treating his viewer disrespectfully, as though we aren't intelligent enough to pick up on the subtleties of the message he is conveying.
Further issues arise as a result of the ambitious premise, as with any film of this ilk, time travelling presents so many plot holes and flaws that have the ability to frustrate the viewer. With various head in hand moments that simply don't add up, of course one must appreciate this is a fantasy tale and some suspension of disbelief is imperative, however sadly such inconsistencies prove to be damaging when the film isn't particularly good. If you're otherwise occupied by being entertained, such flaws can be shrugged off – but if you're bothered and bored, they become glaringly obtrusive.
Though About Time can also be accused of moving too quickly, sidestepping moments with much comedic scope as we proceed swiftly through this narrative. Nevertheless Curtis must be commended for such ambition within this picture, as he attempts to provide a insight on life as a whole. Although we are led to believe this picture is a mere romantic tale of a man simply chasing a woman, the emphasis shifts dramatically throughout, as we cover themes such as his relationship with his father, his sister's alcoholism, parenthood, and death – with a delicate sincerity on show in the latter.
Another positive comes in the performance of Gleeson, who triumphs in what is effectively just a Hugh Grant impersonation, as he remains endearing and likeable throughout. However on the whole About Time is far too mawkish, and struggles to take this fascinating and creative premise and make something unique out of it, in what ultimately proves to be a frustratingly cliched piece of cinema.