out of Five
Running time: 123
Richard Curtis' latest Britcom features a terrific central performance from Dohmnall Gleeson and a handful of decent gags, but it fails to properly exploit its premise and is ultimately let down by a misguided script, mawkish sentimentality and an unsightly pile-up of plot holes and logic problems.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, About Time stars Domhnall Gleeson as law student Tim, whose father (Bill Nighy) informs him, on his 21st birthday, that the men in his family have the ability to time travel and that he is able to revisit any point in his lifetime just by going into a wardrobe, closing his eyes and willing himself to that time. Needless to say, Tim's new-found talent comes in pretty handy in the romance department and after he accidentally erases his perfect first meeting with American dream girl Mary (Rachel McAdams), he has to keep fine-tuning the details of subsequent meetings until she falls for him again.
The best thing about the film is Gleeson, who delivers an utterly charming, star-making performance that could set him up as a sort of ginger Hugh Grant de nos jours; he also has affecting chemistry with both McAdams (as adorable as ever, though not given much to actually do) and Nighy, since the father/son relationship is given as much emotional weight as the central romance. In addition, there's strong support from the likes of Tom Hollander (as Tim's grumpy playwright flatmate) and Lydia Wilson (as Tim's dysfunctional sister) and the script does at least deliver a handful of decent laughs, particularly in the first half of the film.
The main problem with About Time is its depressing lack of imagination and the resulting failure to properly exploit its premise is infuriating, especially when said premise is ripe with unexplored potential – even the promising romcom set-up is ditched fairly early on. Admittedly, a key part of the script is Tim deciding that life is better when he doesn't use his power and that life is about enjoying the moments you have, but this decision is stripped of any dramatic weight, since Tim's life is actually pretty perfect anyway (wealthy, loving family, seaside family home, etc).
An equally big problem is the unsightly pile-up of plot holes and logic problems, several of which stem from the fact that the film fails to clearly establish its time-travel rules; for example, rather than Time Travel Tim having to avoid meeting himself (Back to the Future style) when he time travels, he apparently merges with his original body (Quantum Leap style), but this leaves several unanswered questions that the film completely ignores. On top of that, About Time is awash with mawkish sentimentality but, mysteriously, opts to completely skip over its most emotional moment (shortly after Tim learns of the unexpected consequences of time travel), leaving the audience to fill in a huge gap in the story for themselves.
Despite a handful of amusing moments, About Time is nowhere near as much fun as it should have been, thanks to a poorly thought-out script that fails to capitalise on its central premise.