I have to start off by saying that About Time was falsely marketed. All the trailers I saw pointed to it being a romantic comedy, but I wouldn’t class it as that at all. Everything from the trailers I saw happened in the first act so if you’re expecting a straight-up romcom you should adjust those expectations now. It’s more of a comedy drama that focuses on the effect time travel has on the people surrounding Tim rather than concentrating on his relationship with Mary. One of the first things I looked at was how consistent the film was with its use of time travel. The rules were established early on (although a few more were added throughout the film) and upon reflection I can’t think of any massive violations.
The concept of the film is universal; I think we all have moments where we’d love to go back and either relive things or redo things. For the most part About Time uses this as fuel for comedy, and it was fun to see the awkward, shy boy grow more confident as he tries a different method. The time travel was also used for dramatic purposes, Tim had to learn how to think through his actions and how changing events in the past could have unforeseen consequences in the future. Most of these were fairly predictable but there were a couple of changes that do take you by surprise. Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy were the best performers. Domhnall Gleeson carried the film and he was perfect as the awkward, vulnerable boy with a good heart that is just trying to make his life better. One touch I really did like is that he tried to use his ability to help others, even if it had negative consequences for his own life, and that endeared him to me and got me invested in his life. Bill Nighy had his usual suave detachment and shared the most poignant moments with Gleeson.
Lydia Wilson, who played Tim’s sister Kit Kat, also had a good role. Sadly, the other lead, Rachel McAdams, was very underdeveloped. I never felt that she was a character in her own right, and she was only there so Tim had something to strive for. While the promotional materials make you assume that McAdams is an important part of the story, in actual fact she’s more of a supporting character. The supporting cast seemed interesting, and they received some of the biggest laughs of the night, but they were never developed enough so that we cared about them. They seemed to flit in and out of the film on a whim without ever really becoming more than thinly-drawn characters with broad quirks. About Time never really seemed to know what it wanted to be. There was a montage at the end that was similar to Love, Actually, but the film wasn’t an anthology of stories so it didn’t have the same all-encompassing feel.
Although there was a core group of characters it didn’t have the same ensemble feel as Four Weddings and a Funeral, and it didn’t have the straight up romance of Notting Hill. It felt like it wanted to be like all of them when it should have carved its own identity. The script was filled with a lot of funny moments but the dramatic ones didn’t really hit home. There were poignant moments but I never felt Tim had to strive for anything. It all worked out a bit too easily and I thought some of the ramifications of time travel could have been explored more. There were also a few plot threads that seemed to be building to something, but then they were abandoned.
The romcom moments were done really well and the chemistry between Gleeson and McAdams was sweet, but that soon took a backseat. The end message was trite, unoriginal and obvious. I was left feeling underwhelmed by it and it left no real lasting impact. About Time is a decent movie with an interesting concept and some enjoyable moments. Domhnall Gleeson gives a good performance but he’s let down by the shallow characterisation of the supporting cast and the film’s lack of identity. It’s a film that will make you think about how your life could have been different but I don’t think it’ll be a film you’ll revisit again and again.