Title: About Time
Director/Stars: Domhnall Gleeson (Actor), Rachel McAdams (Actor), Richard Curtis (Director)
Genre: Family Drama?
Watched: March 21-22 15, 2014
Summary: Confused, and def not SciFi!
About Time represents one of those all to frequent films where the expectations of the studio and the filmmaker have about zero overlap. What the studio seemed to have wanted, and attempted to market (despite the reality of the actual film) was a romantic comedy. What they got, was something a bit confused. Basically, a wish fulfillment fantasy (not Fantasy, but a fantasy) about family and quirky characters. Oh, and it has a time travel gimmick and is from Richard Curtis, of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame.
As a film, About Time is populated by some good acting (particularly by the ever-excellent Bill Nighy), some humor, and some nice sentiments, coupled with a stunning absence of conflict or jeopardy and plot holes the size of the Titanic. Still, it’s not awful to watch or anything.
As Science Fiction, or a time travel movie, well that’s another matter. And it’s this last I feel the need to comment on, or if not need, obligation, given my relationship to the genre (see my own time travel novel). Time travel in this film really is a gimmick, and not one that is particularly well thought out. Sure, at times it’s amusing enough, as when Tim, our protagonist, patches together his relationship with his soul mate out of at least 3 distinct tries. Slightly Groundhog Day, the rules are never really worked or explained. When Tim loses his perfect first date because he needs to fix his landlord’s broken play on the same night, he has to try again with the girl differently — but the audience is left guessing as to why. The rules themselves seems to change at a whim. He (and his dad) spend oodles of time in the past, but never seem to age doing so. We are told he can never go to the future — but clearly he comes back from the past. He travels alone — except exactly twice. Once, with his also time traveling dad (fine) and then truly mysteriously, once bringing along (and returning) his sister?!? This trip in particular makes no sense. Not only does he bring another person (how?), but it allows for a sideways reality of several years, but when he learns (from dad) that this loses him his kid (in the present), he goes and fixes it back with no explanation or film time. If there is so much jeopardy (losing one’s kid because of the butterfly effect of random sperm) then how can he fix it so easily? And if fixed, where’s the jeopardy?
The gimmick does manage to briefly capture about 5% of the pathos factor of visiting someone dead and lost with his father (during and after) said father’s demise (mostly on the strength of Nighy’s acting) — but again, the pathos is drawn out by the lack of any consistent attention to the rules. Supposedly, Tim can’t visit his dead father in the past anymore because he can’t cross the barrier of his third child’s birth, yet on his last visit, the two of them hop off twenty years into the past (crossing numerous birth barriers) with nary a thought. Plus, he already (as mentioned above) fixed one such barrier goof.
Oh, yeah, then the big kicker is, that despite the fact that his time manipulations have only been used to fix things, and have never previously messed anything up (that hasn’t been then fixed), our protagonist decides at the end of the film to just stop using the powers, because now he “appreciates everyday so much he doesn’t need them.”
I call B.S.
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My novels: The Darkening Dream and Untimed