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Article by Teddy Durgin

It's 'About Time' for a Movie This Good!

"About Time" is being billed as a romance, a love story, a boy-meets-girl tale. And it IS that. But, at its core, it's really a father-son movie... and a beautiful one, at that. The main character is a young British man named Tim (Domhnall Gleeson). On Tim's 21st birthday, his father (Bill Nighy) sits him down and gives him "the talk." No, not the birds and the bees. He tells him that all the males in their bloodline have had one thing in common... they can travel through time at will. The scene perfectly sets up not only the entire film, but also the charming parent-child dynamic that will be the glue that holds this flick together. And Nighy is just perfect in this scene. He knows his boy won't believe him at first. He even recalls his dad giving him "The Talk" years earlier. There is this wonderful mix of nervousness and excitement in how he lays out the rules of family time travel to his son - that he can only travel within his own lifetime, that he can only go back to events he was part of, etc. He shrugs off the "Butterfly Effect" and other paradoxical co-inky-dinks. And then he challenges the doubting Tim to find a dark, quiet place; focus on where (and when) he wants to go; close his eyes; clench his fists; and then come back into the light. Incredibly, it works. So does "About Time." The movie is written and directed by Richard Curtis, the talented artist behind "Love Actually." How much you like his movies depends on 1) how much you still believe in love and humanity; and 2) your threshold for pale, quippy, rail-thin British people who use way too many adverbs. Well, I believe in love. Not so sure about humanity. And, well, give me a Hugh Grant or a Colin Firth romantic comedy over a Ryan Reynolds or Matthew McConaughey one any day. Gleeson is young, but he takes up the mantle of stammering, young London romantic well from Grant and Firth. Moving forward, you can totally see hordes of British screenwriters writing roles for him they once would have penned for Hugh and Colin. He's that good. He is eventually paired with... eh... Rachel McAdams. OK, I like her and I understand why Curtis went with her. He needed at least one box-office name in the cast to sell the film. And you instantly believe her as the chipmunk-cheeked cutie a young London bloke would fall instantly in love with and risk messing up the space-time continuum for. But a part of me does wish Curtis had made as obscure a choice to play McAdams' Mary as he did for Tim. When you have a film that works this well on its own terms, you don't want to see an actress who you identify as other guys' girls from other films in the pivotal lead female role. When I see McAdams, I think of her with Ryan Gosling in "The Notebook," with Channing Tatum in "The Vow," and... hello... with Eric Bana in "The Time Traveler's Wife!" I wanted Gleeson to have his own screen-specific lady love. But again, as much as the Tim-Mary romance is front and center throughout "About Time," the takeaway from this flick is Tim and his dad. Some of the best moments in "About Time" are little ones in the middle of scenes where Nighy arches an eyebrow or lets out a small chuckle knowing that the Tim he is talking to is not the Tim of his present, but from another time. I don't want to write much more, because movies - like life - are all about discoveries. "About Time" asks, "Wouldn't it be amazing if we had more control of time to revel in those discoveries, to appreciate where we've been and how the events of our past have shaped not only who we are, but who others are around us?" There is danger and risk in having that sort of God-like control. But there's also beauty and wonder. This is a wonderful movie, dear readers - one that I'm going to re-visit time and again.

"About Time" is rated R for language and sexual content.

 

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