Star rating: 3 out of 4
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Richard Curtis
Running time: 123 minutes
Life is a messy affair. We will inevitably deal with the passing of our parents and other forthcoming hardships, all along the way to our impending unchangeable end — death. But what if, in our short time, we could manufacture the perfect moment in every second of every day, infinitely revisiting it until the outcome perfectly fits our desires? Would life cease to be troublesome? We could be rich; we could have the love of our dreams; we could correct any feelings of guilt or regret. It’s a nice fantasy. Sadly, reality does not permit the privilege of time travelling to the past. But what if we could live this fantasy through a movie? And I mean really live it! Could we forget and correct the disarray of our lives for two hours? Or would this ability bring on additional calamity?
Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is an awkward redhead with love on his mind. When Charlotte, a woman with a bubbly personality, moves in with Tim’s family for the summer he loses himself in the potential of a lifetime of happiness. Neither money nor fame could bring him fulfillment; it must come through true and unconditional love. Charlotte is presented in dream-like perfection: a bright light always seems to shine from behind her as if she were a goddess. Tim eventually squanders the opportunity, waiting until the last night to share his feelings with her, but there may be another chance.
On Tim’s 21st birthday his father lets him in on a family secret. “The men in this family can travel in time … although it’s not as dramatic as it sounds — you can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy,” but the power does enable revisiting any moment in one’s personal history. Just “go into a dark place, clench your fists and think of the moment you’re going to and you will find yourself there,” his father explains. To Tim’s great disbelief he tries the crackpot idea and it works. He is able to travel back in time to share his feelings with Charlotte earlier on while hoping that this time she too will fall for him. However, it is on this first occasion that Tim learns a crucial lesson — with all the hindsight and rehearsed charisma in the world, sometimes you just can’t stop disappointment. Free will and chance still exist.
With Charlotte behind him and away from his thoughts, Tim goes to London to pursue his career as a lawyer. He stands in the middle of busy staircases hoping that one day his dream girl will unexpectedly bump into him. He has no luck … that is until he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) while at a “dating in the dark” restaurant. They immediately hit it off and from that point on my heart melted for them.
I’m tired of the tropes in time travel movies: the little decisions made in the past that always have catastrophic consequences, inconsistencies and implausibilities that add up to enormous suspensions of disbelief. I have become exasperated by the dark cynicism and post-modernism infused in current filmmaking — as if something that is depressing is always profound. Where are the white heroes and the “hug yourself” pleasures of movie magic? The answer: lost in the pretentions of Hollywood’s “dark ages.”
Behold, About Timeis a nice and cheerful rom-com that is utterly beguiling — sometimes tears of joy are as precious as those caused by the pain of grey and flawed characters or epic tales of time travel. Richard Curtis’ (Love Actually) film is a lovely time that’s only flaw may be that it is too much so. As the second act looms and the film shifts from a love story to a fable about the nature of time and the pain that comes with living through it, Curtis never really cares to dish out the auras of depression in full force that are necessary for the deeper nuances of the story to be explored. Don’t get me wrong — every woman in my theatre had a tear in her eye and a Kleenex box in hand. It’s just that maybe the emotional payoff came a little unearned.
Even still, I don’t care. Our lives have enough crap in them. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a movie stripped of depressing realism. About Timeis just that: highly enjoyable in all of its “too sweet” pleasantries — the eye candy of the production design, the empathetic swagger of the two leads (Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson) and the catchiness of the soundtrack, which features iconic songs like Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you.”
If About Timewere a desert it wouldn’t be a fancy and well-presented wedding pastry but an enormous tub of chocolate ice cream with extra chocolate sauce on top. Not everything needs to be served on a shining white platter in a five-star restaurant; once in a while we all need some comfort food.
Joshua Cabrita is a Grade 12 student at Riverside Secondary in Port Coquitlam.
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