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About Time Not Just Another Romantic Comedy

Sarah Dieckman | Monday, December 2, 2013

After seeing “Frozen” with my younger cousins at the start of Thanksgiving Break, I opted for something with a little more depth and less talking animals for my last night home. I have “Love Actually” on a loop during December, so I hoped its creators would work their magic in their new film “About Time.” Though I expected a standard romantic comedy when I walked into the theater, I was pleasantly surprised by the film. Director Richard Curtis avoided most of the stereotypical pitfalls that most films in this genre experience. He dismantled the rom-com formula in favor of a sentimental, unconventional love story. While the film succeeded with its quirky, relatable characters, it fell flat with its occasional slips into trite and cliché territory.

Domhnall Gleeson stars as Tim Lake, who, upon turning 21, learns that he has the ability to travel back in time, like all the other men in his family. At first hesitant to accept his father’s secret as truth, Tim eventually takes his advice by locking himself in a dark room, imagining a moment he wishes to do over. A second passes, and he can hear The Killers “Mr. Brightside” echoing throughout the hallways, leading him to understand that he has successfully returned to the New Year’s Eve party from the previous night. As an awkward, cautious young adult, Tim sees this gift as an incredible opportunity to amend the mistakes he made in the past and create a better future. Gleeson gave a raw performance and had the audience rooting for his happiness from the beginning. From his courtship of Mary to his close relationship with his father, his perseverance and determination toward a happier future for himself and his family were admirable and much needed in the film, especially during the reoccurring gloomy scenes.

As a new lawyer trying to find his way in London, Tim meets Mary at “Dans Le Noir,” a restaurant in which the guests are served their meal in complete darkness. Although only her voice is heard, Rachel McAdams quickly captivates the audience through the small conversation snippets. Rachel McAdams has been in her fair share of romantic comedies during her career, and, although I think this was her best performance, she was sadly underused throughout the course of the film. She previously starred in “The Notebook” (which seems to be on ABC Family every other week) and “The Vow” (which was the most-hyped, least liked movie), but here we see her as a mature woman with grown up problems rather than a love-struck teenager. She must have a thing for time travelers, as she also was the lead in “Time Traveler’s Wife,” which was much more disjointed and had less substance than “About Time”. Her presence is sorely missed when not onscreen, however, as the love story seems very one-sided at times as the focus is on Tim and his feelings. Yet, her obsession with Kate Moss and love of colorful frocks make her character eccentric and endearing – someone we would all want to befriend.

Though the romantic leads play their roles well, Tim’s father, played by Bill Nighy, ended up being my favorite character. Between his commentary during table tennis matches with Tim to his sincere advice regarding time travel, Nighy brought heart to this film which was necessary due to the heavy subject matter ranging from unhealthy relationships to flaky friends. Although his words of wisdom were sometimes cliché and the overall message of “live life to fullest” hit you over the head, they are words that can never be repeated too often. 

The movie does tend to drag, especially as the running time exceeds two hours, as it tries to cover too much ground and too many relationships without giving the appropriate amount of time to each. However, the characters and the humor that arises amidst trying times are what make the film and its message worthwhile.

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