Screened Out – About Time

By : Stephen Miller
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Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Lydia Wilson

The instant do-over: it’s one of the great fantasies of anyone who’s lost a huge opportunity, screwed up a vital life decision, or stumbled through a serious social gaffe.

About Time shows us an English father and son who have this remarkable power, they can keep going back in time until they get the right girl, until they remember to tell the people around them they love them, and until they have the perfect day. With fun characters and intelligent writing, it’s an experience that’s not only fascinating, it’s also sweet, lively, and quite emotionally overwhelming.

One day, Bill Nighy sits his son Domhnall Gleeson down and tells him that they can time travel. It has to be to a place they’ve been before. Also, there seems to be no Butterfly Effect, but the traveler has to understand that he can profoundly change his own life. After Gleeson proves that his lovely, kooky dad isn’t playing a prank on him, the world of possibility opens up.

“Now that you know, what are you going to do?” asks Nighy.

Gleeson admits he’d love to find the perfect girl.

“Epic,” responds his dad dryly.

And find love he does, with Rachel McAdams, whose billing also always acts as the warning sign that we’re delving into deep romance.

Rachel McAdams is a requirement in these quirky romance flicks.

Rachel McAdams is a requirement in these quirky romance flicks.

This film is by popular English director Richard Curtis, so there’s no surprise that schmaltz play a big part. Is that a bad thing? I submit that people don’t go see Curtis films, this, Notting Hill, the Bridget Jones films, and especially Love Actually, without wanting a heaping helping of sugar, along with Curtis’s sharp wit.

The family in About Time is a mélange of oddball, charming characters, the loving dad with the cool swagger, the no-nonsense mother, the dotty but dapper uncle, and especially the whacky sister Lydia Wilson (who often steals the film). With all this, the lead could get lost, but Gleeson (the son of Brendan Gleeson, a bit player in the Potter series) is endearingly clumsy, a perfect doofus to root for.

Sure, there’s a slightly creepy factor with how father and son are able to be puppet masters for the lives around them. And it is never explained why only the men have this gift (which seems to fall into that sexist cliché about the male needing to maintain control). At least the inherent problems with time travel are handled lightly and spritely.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

There are several things to make About Time a film one could watch repeatedly, a DVD later worth displaying without shame. The acting is phenomenal, especially Nighy’s, Gleeson’s, and Wilson’s. The humor is sharp, yet the film makes no apologies for its sentimentality.

Most importantly, About Time allows lovely people to be their best selves. And that makes us think about our own ability to be our best selves, no matter whether we have the power of instant do-over or not. If About Time can make us ponder this, then this film is pretty amazing.

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