About Time’s big gimmick is its time travel, yet it’s pretty horrible as a time travel movie-proper. The rules are a bunch of wet spaghetti, messy and squishy and impossible to get a hold of. It breaks one of the axioms of speculative fiction: once you set up rules, you must follow them. You bend the story around the rules, not the rules around the story.
The ethical ramifications of the time travel are slippery, too, as Domhnall Gleeson’s Tim considers the physical implications of his time hopping without much thought to how moral his manipulations are. (It’s an anti-Groundhog Day in this regard, though it shares Groundhog Day’s weird problems depicting consent in non-linear timelines.)
With all of that as prelude, About Time is a legitimately charming film; great, even. As a romantic comedy-drama that ultimately morphs into an ode to parenthood, About Time has some of the warmest chemistry and most unabashed sincerity you’ll see on screen.
The first half of the film revolves around Tim’s blossoming romance with Rachel McAdam’s Mary. Gleeson and McAdams are fireworks on screen together, with McAdams at perhaps her peak adorability (which is saying something).
Just as the film hits the point where we start expecting relationship conflict between Tim and Mary, the movie ditches its romcom structure and pivots into a broader family drama without feeling too much like a cheat. The connection between parent and child, and the value of making the most of that time together, is probed.
The tone of the movie’s second half is so caring, the filmmaking so frictionless, that it’s the cinematic equivalent of snuggling up next to a fireplace. The movie’s big treacly metaphor of the inevitability of time passing despite our best efforts becomes clear.
Anyways, watching this movie after a long, exhausting day with two toddler daughters while splitting some wine with my wife emotionally broke me, and I spent the entire final 20 minutes with tears running down my cheeks.
I need to watch the movie in slightly more sober circumstances before putting it in any sort of pantheon, especially when the time travel stuff is such moldy Swiss cheese, but About Time definitely clicked for me.
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.