Please note that this article contains spoilers.
Isn’t it about time you watched About Time this Valentine’s Day?
Richard Curtis CBE, a director and writer in contemporary British cinema who can simply do no wrong, released About Time as his second directorial piece ten years after the Christmas tear jerker and smash hit Love Actually, to similar praise and applause. It is essentially a poignant amalgamation of romantic comedy and science fiction, and offers a timely and unique insight into the questions that couples and single people alike ask – ‘What if every moment in life came with a second chance?’ – Which is the perfect tagline for About Time.
The films central character Tim Lake (Domhall Gleeson) resides with his family in sunny Cornwall, in a ubiquitously middle class setting with his father (Bill Nighy), his mother (Lindsay Duncun), his often forgetful Uncle Desmond (Richard Cordery), and his less than conventional sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) in their family home by the sea. Tim finds out on his 21st birthday – in an awkward and jokey encounter with his father – that the men in his family are able to travel in time. Whilst his father has read every book worth reading twice (Dickens, three times!), Tim’s suggestion of using his extraordinary ability to acquire money or fame is dismissed by his father; Tim ultimately decides to use his gift to help him get a girlfriend, and subsequently improve his love life.
The film’s central motif is time travelling (hence the title), and for any science-fiction fan the question of time travel is: ‘what are the ground rules’? For Tim, he can only travel to places and times he has already been to, so he has to remain within his own past, but cannot go back past the conception of his child. This indicates that the butterfly effect is present, and will have an effect on the outcomes of Tim’s time travel. Whilst the rules of time travel in the film are simplistic, this is really a non-concern as time-travel rules elsewhere in film and literature are usually arbitrary and, despite the simplicity, still work brilliantly within the film anyway.
Furthermore, what is particularly interesting about the film are both the characters themselves and the relationships within the film. The relationship between Tim and his father is sentimental and truly special, particularly in the scenes where they play table tennis, and as his role as best man at Tim’s wedding, in a feat of top notch acting and comedic timing that Richard Curtis consistently employs within his films. Bill Nighy’s acting in these scenes are brilliantly and consistently well-acted, and after having watched them you will definitely wish to have Bill Nighy as a father.
The more emphasised relationship is between Tim and Mary (Rachel McAdams, who is perfect in her role), who meet unexpectedly at the London branch of Dans Le Noir, while Tim is on a random night out with his best friend Jay (Will Merrick). The flirting between Tim and Mary is full of adorableness and playfulness, especially during the montage scenes at Maida Vale tube station where Tim and Mary both enter and exit the station backed by a top-class cover version of The Waterboy’s song ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ by Jon Boden, Sam Sweeney and Ben Coleman, who themselves portray buskers throughout the beautiful montage scenes. Indeed, the chemistry between Tim and Mary in the film becomes extraordinarily playful and downright hilarious during the wedding-plan sequence, in which Mary takes off one item of clothing for every decision Tim makes, and as Tim suggests a bed and breakfast in Scotland, Mary says she is not taking her pants off ‘for Scotland’. (Sorry Scotland!)
When the film really comes into its element, in my opinion, is in the diverse soundtrack that is a staple of Curtis’s films. The songs featured in this film are incredibly well thought-out, and are guaranteed to aid any filmgoer’s emotional journey throughout the film. Indeed, there is a considerably eclectic mix ranging from alternative rock such as ‘Friday I’m in Love’ by The Cure to R&B, which includes the well placed hit ‘Dilemma’ by Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland. The emotional crux of the film is encapsulated by one of my favourite songs, ‘The Luckiest’ by Ben Folds, which brilliantly interlinks with the film’s theme of love and time travel. Indeed, the film’s soundtrack itself is up there with the likes of Richard Curtis’s other films, and is certainly a contender in my mind – along with the soundtrack to Love Actually – as a part of my top ten soundtracks in film.
About Time, as both a time-travel film and bittersweet romantic comedy, is in my mind the emotional successor and bedfellow of Love Actually, despite being contested by some reviews who, in my mind, wrongly dismiss the film. And indeed this is the perfect film for Valentine’s Day, given that the film’s top-notch acting, soundtrack and plot will cater to both single people and couples. According to top film aficionado Mark Kermode, About Time is ‘the cinematic equivalent of a big warm hug’, and indeed About Time is one big warm hug that we all need this Valentine’s Day.