Directed by Richard Curtis. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander, Richard Cordery. (2013, R, 123 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Nov. 1, 2013
Yes, this is a movie about a man who can travel back in time to do over what he bungled on the first try – a botched New Year’s Eve kiss, a pickup line that sunk like a lead balloon – but put aside the high concept. It’s really just sleight of hand to get us cooking on more earthbound concerns: how hard it can be to live in the moment, how heartbreaking it can be to admit powerlessness to fix others – or to fix fate. Lest that all sound too serious, too unsexy, the film’s enticements also include a winsome, relatable romance and a sense of humor that lands on the right side of the corny-to-sweetly-dorky continuum.
Domhnall Gleeson is Tim, a kind but unsure, stammering sort of fellow. On his 21st birthday, his father – a fellow time traveler played by the essential Bill Nighy, all ropey and Britishy-Zen – breaks the news of their peculiar ability to move backward – but never forward – in time. The family is rounded out by a sensible, unsentimental mom (Duncan) and a whirling dervish of a sister (Wilson), who shows tiny fracture lines that portend some future breakage. Rachel McAdams plays the American who turns Tim’s knees to jelly, and with good reason: She’s like star bright, with bangs. The movie moves episodically, leisurely, through roughly a decade, and that feels like a gift: to nestle in with these extraordinary, ordinary people and get to know them.
As a writer and sometime director, Richard Curtis has made a career of strong-arming audiences into cuddles (Notting Hill, Love Actually). About Time, so full of compassion and care with handling, is something different – a kind of benevolence. I walked out of the movie wanting to fall in love, hug a small child, call my parents, and take back the half-dozen thoughtless things I’d said that day. I worried I was going soft, so I saw it again. Afterward, somewhere between a sniffle and a beam, I reached for my phone. And if I’d seen a small child, I probably would’ve lunged at it, too.