2013’s About Time has all the hallmarks of a Richard Curtis film, and that is almost certainly because it is a Richard Curtis film. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing in equal measure.
Curtis can be relied upon to inject his movies with plenty of humour and there is no doubt that there are moments that are genuinely laugh out loud. However all of things that I don’t like about Curtis’ movies are also there in abundance, notably the massively overprivileged characters who don’t seem to have the slightest idea how privileged they are. Also it’s more than a tad oversentimental. And, as is so often the case with Curtis, there is an unbelievably stupid character in the mix, who isn’t especially funny.
Notionally about time-travel, but clumsily so, it’s really as much about the notion of happiness as anything else and even there it’s neither subtle nor indeed especially enlightening – frankly if the charmed lives of the characters don’t result in happiness then there really isn’t much hope for the rest of us.
Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams are perfectly charming and make the most of lead characters that could run the risk of being insipid in lesser hands. Bill Nighy does what Bill Nighy tends to do quite well, though barely seems to have to try. The real plaudits should go to Tom Hollander though. Saddled with another Curtis trope of an exceptionally rude character, who, bizarrely, everyone seems to tolerate, Hollander not only succeeds in making him plausible, he pretty much steals every scene he’s in.
Perhaps ironically (perhaps not) About Time is about 30 minutes too long. There’s a good film hiding in there somewhere, but it’s hiding pretty well.
Score for Christmasishness
The main character discovers his ability to time travel on New Year’s Day and his first act is to travel back to the preceding New Year’s Eve party, a party that we revisit a couple more times during the movie. There is also a brief Christmas scene at the end of the movie. The party, in particular, is a recurring motif and so we see Christmas decorations sporadically throughout the movie. About Time is therefore more than Christmas(ish) enough to earn its place in my annual countdown.