“About Time”: a Savannah Film Festival review

The big heart of About Time largely makes up for the movie’s illogic.

Films about time travel invariably have plot holes or problems, but About Time‘s characters are so compelling and its pace so pleasant that it’s easy to get caught up in this story of simple lives as they are being led — lives filled with promise, regret, hope, and random moments that can change the future.

Writer and director Richard Curtis walks some fine lines here, but he manages to pull the whole thing off.

Tony nominee Domhnall Gleeson plays Tim, an occasionally nervous but amazingly likable young man who has learned from his father (played with wit and passion by Bill Nighy) that all the men in their family can travel in time.

So Tim tries to use the power to find and then to keep a girlfriend. Of course, the occasional leaps in time are more complicated than Tim first imagines, and we see several instances of him leaping back not just once but twice to try to change the course of events.

I can’t praise Gleeson’s work enough here — with subtle expressions and amazing control of his entire body, he projects many emotions with clarity and honesty. He’s especially good when those emotions are multi-layered — grief tinged with satisfaction, desire tempered by modesty, insecurity offset by certainty.

Eventually, he meets and then remeets the love of his life, an American woman named Mary played by Rachel McAdams, who has a breezy, natural spontaneity throughout the film. Mary and Tim seem such a perfect match that even the silliest moments between them are pleasant to watch. If we were back in the old days of powerful studios, I’d expect to see a followup film — maybe several — starring Gleeson and McAdams.

The rest of the cast is excellent too, especially Lindsay Duncan as Tim’s mother. Duncan is given relatively few lines in the script, which is regrettable given the film’s length, but she bites them off winningly.

About Time plods on for a little over two hours — too long. There were at least four scenes that I assumed would be the final one, but the story just kept moving ahead. And then back. And then forward again.

The film opens in limited release in the U.S. on Nov. 1st and goes wider on Nov. 8th, but it has already played in other markets and has grossed over $30 million.

I’m not quite sure how American audiences will respond to the touching comedy, which is absurdly rated R, but maybe the worldwide buzz will be sufficient to get McAdams and Gleeson together again.