The new film "About Time," starring Rachel McAdams, is a romantic drama involving time travel. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
Starting in the late '90s, there was a cute little trendlet of romantic dramas, movies like "Sliding Doors" and "Kate & Leopold," that took off from premises right out of science-fiction fantasy. Only the movies, in spirit, weren't sci-fi. They were closer to sweet fables of destiny.
Richard Curtis' "About Time" is a movie very much in that tradition. Curtis, the acclaimed screenwriter of "Notting Hill" and director of "Love Actually," is a wistfully grounded romantic, and in "About Time," he treats his supernatural hook as casually as possible, to make us believe: Yes, that's just what it would feel like.
Tim, played by the likable gawky Domhnall Gleeson, comes from a nice, comfortable British family, and he has no serious worries, except that he's a romantic fumbler. He gets his chance to up his game when his retired professor father, played by Bill Nighy, summons him on his 21st birthday to reveal a major secret: The men in their family all have the ability to go back in time. Tim learns that he can revisit any point in his life that didn't work out well and re-do it to his design.
Tim's dad warns him to use his gift modestly - not, for instance, to acquire wealth with it - and Tim learns that he can't make someone fall in love with him. But he can guide the process, and that's just what he does with Mary, a fetching American played by Rachel McAdams. "About Time" is the story of their courtship, marriage, and what happens after they become parents.
Is there a downside to Tim's ability? Not much of one, and that may be why "About Time," after an enchanting first half, settles into a mode of anecdotal family soap opera that is more affectionate than dramatic. Gleeson and McAdams make a touching, lifelike couple, but by the time the movie starts telling us to live each day as if we were going back and doing it all over again, you may feel that Curtis has mistaken hokum for wisdom.