About TimeIt seems that Rachel McAdams has a type. But while other people might look for health or humour in a potential partner, the one-time Mean Girl seems to go for men who can travel in time. Having waited for Eric Bana in The Time Traveler’s Wife, a marriage of timelines that spanned almost the entirety of both of their lives, McAdams here has Brendan Gleeson’s son revising his own history in an attempt to be with her.

Told on his twenty-first birthday that the males in his family have the ability to travel back in time, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is at first skeptical of his father’s (Bill Nighy) claims, but a trip back to earlier that night via his bedroom cupboard shows that his old man is in fact telling the truth. Deciding to use his inheritance to find a girlfriend, Tim moves to London where he soon crosses paths with a young Kate Moss fan called Mary (Rachel McAdams). After accidentally erasing their first meeting, however, he must try to win her heart once more.

The latest film from Richard Curtis, the writer-director behind such quintessentially British films as Four Weddings And A Funeral and Love Actually, About Time was revealed to be the Surprise Film of the 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival ahead of its planned September release. Reuniting him once again with actor Bill Nighy, the film also stars Lindsay Duncan as Tim’s mother, Margot Robbie as his sister and Tom Hollander as a playwright relative who grudgingly puts him up in London.

Obviously, we’re in pretty familiar territory here with regards to Curtis’ back-catalogue, and as a romantic-comedy About Time works rather well. Domhnall Gleeson — looking about ten years younger than he did in Anna Karenina and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — is incredibly charming in the leading role, winning audiences over early on with an enthusiastic voice-over and managing to hold onto their sympathies throughout. McAdams is as loveable as ever in what is admittedly a lesser role, working with her co-star to establish a relationship that is sweet without ever verging on saccharine.

Unfortunately, as a science fiction movie About Time fails completely, the director’s screenplay failing to make any sense whatsoever. An opening dose of exposition establishes that time-travelers can travel backwards but not forwards in time, and yet the characters are somehow able to return to the present at will; it is suggested that characters cannot travel further back than the birth of their most recent child, and yet Tim does just this during the film’s third act; and the claim that only males can travel through time is challenged when Tim takes his sister back with him.

What’s worse, About Time contains almost no drama whatsoever; every time Tim runs into an obstacle or faces a problem he simply jumps into the nearest cupboard and overcomes it with a quick trip back in time. It’s not as though there is any shortage of dramatic possibilities in the script either, with the early erasure of Tim and Mary’s first meeting hinting at a (better) film spent trying to recapture the original spark, and a particularly horrifying sequence in which Tim returns to the future only to find a different child waiting for him. Unimaginably, neither development has any impact on the characters or story.

Gleeson and McAdams are never going to be anything less than watchable, but their charm and chemistry is wasted on a script that refuses to challenge them — or the audience — in any way at all. Any magic or goodwill the actors manage to cultivate during the movie is immediately undone after the credits have rolled, when the film immediately unravels when subjected to even the slightest scrutiny. It’s about time Richard Curtis made another good movie, but sadly this is not it.


  • Claire

    I was at the outdoors “premier” yesterday and absolutely loved it! (And I hate rom-com type films!) Analysing About Time from a science fiction perspective is like analysing Twilight from a purely Horror perspective. You should look at the two together, I do not think the sci-fi aspect was that important to this film, it is integral to the plot of course but the love aspiration if far more important.

    As for the sci-fi, the idea that ‘the time-travellers can travel backwards but
    not forwards in time’ makes perfect sense because the future has yet to happen.They are only travelling within their own time frame that has existed (this was explained).They are not travelling ‘forwards’ in time after they have gone back, they are simply returning to the present, and can go no further than the present in which they have lived.

    It also didn’t suggest that they CAN’T travel further back than
    their child’s birth- simply that IF they do then they risk changing things such
    as the child itself. (There was a voice over explaining all about changing the
    moment of conception resulting in the birth of a different child in the
    present). Because Tim loves his ‘present’ child he does not wish to travel back in time and change the past, risking a different child who he does not know or love.

    At the start they explained that only the males have the
    ability to travel back in time, that doesn’t mean that they can’t take someone
    with them. That’s like arguing that Lois Lane can fly, only because Superman is dragging her through the air by the hand…

    It’s a really good film- I’d have given it 4/5 to 5/5 stars! 🙂