About Time is just the loveliest film. I would expect nothing less from the Richard Curtis team, who are responsible for bringing us such joys as Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, Love Actually, The Boat that Rocked, Four Weddings and a Funeral and, of course, The Vicar of Dibley and Blackadder. Put simply, they can do no wrong, and they’ve proved it yet again with About Time.
When Tim discovers that the men in his family can travel backwards through time, he decides he is going to use his gift for love, find the woman of his dreams, get married and have lots of babies. Meanwhile his dad, who is Bill Nighy and undeniably the coolest character in the film, says he uses his time travel abilities to read as many books as he possibly can. He definitely sounds like my kind of guy. They have a really idyllic sounding family life, filled with afternoon tea on the beach every day, Sunday evening film nights with an outdoor projector regardless of the weather, and free time filled with game after game of table tennis. It sounds perfect because it is, and we soon discover that Bill Nighy’s character went back in time for the sole purpose of building as much family time into his life as he could, and this is basically what Tim’s trying to do without really realising it. There are a fair few cock ups for Tim along the way though, as he quickly discovers that you can’t change events without suffering the consequences, but he perseveres to create the perfect family life with Mary. Don’t be mistaken in thinking this is just a rom-com though. Okay so there’s a love story and there are comic elements, but it’s way more than a love story. More than anything it’s a story about family, and all the sweet soppiness that comes with it.
The film itself isn’t perfect though. There are a fair few time travel things that don’t get explained, and a fair few time travel rules that are broken throughout the film. Put simply, the use of time travel does seem fairly adaptable for the film’s needs. We’re also never told how Tim makes it back to his ‘current’ time, which would involve travelling forwards from wherever he went back to, and yet his father had explained that they can only go backwards. I’ll be honest, it seems a bit like they’re making it up as they go along.
Obviously there’s a lot of trickery involved, as Mary doesn’t realise that Tim has the ability to time travel, and so she doesn’t realise that the first time they meet is actually the third or fourth time, and that their wedding went through several different versions before Tim settled on one he was happy with. There are a lot of fake memories, deleted memories, and general manipulation of Mary on Tim’s part, but I think we’re meant to overlook this because it’s all done out of love, which would normally be quite vomit-inducing but it did seem to work for me in this film. I must admit, I did find myself becoming quite emotionally invested, which meant that I once again ended up weeping in a public cinema. It really is a lovely, warming story, made all the more so by wonderful Bill Nighy, who was by far the best in the film and also played the best character. It won’t be for everyone and I know a lot of people found themselves rather irritated by the rather fast and loose portrayal of time travel, and I know a lot of people have also compared About Time rather unfavourably to The Time Traveller’s Wife (which I haven’t seen yet), but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I may even go so far as to actually purchase my own DVD copy.