The similarities between Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually lead people to think of Richard Curtis as a filmmaker who wears his formula on his sleeve but as a writer Curtis has a relatively varied style. With only three movies as a director it is still largely as a writer that we know him and as well as his very British romcoms Curtis has penned things as different in tone as they are in greatness, things such as War Horse, Blackadder, Mr Bean and The Vicar of Dibley.
About Time both marks and departs from the attributed conventions. There is a bumbling Brit falling for an American girl and a large ensemble cast. We also get a scene that shows months passing that is not as good as the one in Notting Hill and a scene involving a woman trying on lots of dresses in front of a man that is better than the one in Four Weddings. The fantasy time travel element is new though (unless you count Blackadder’s Christmas Carol). The main difference here is that the romance is not the best thing about the film and the comedy is not what you remember as the credits roll. Love Actually had its fair share of heartbreaking moments but with About Time the balance has definitely shifted further away from the chuckles with the sweetest relationship not being between a boy and a girl but between a boy and his dad.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some nice moments as those two kids you’ve seen on the poster get it together. The fact that the male lead can manipulate the events of his life through time travel means that we get two ‘meet cutes’ for the price of one (as well as a third ‘meet not so cute’) but it also means that the couple’s whole relationship is built on deceit which might be a problem for some. To be honest, while I found the romance part of the film perfectly entertaining, I could happily have taken or left it. It was my reaction to the rest of it that was quite involved.
I’m afraid I can’t discuss my reaction to About Time without it getting a little personal so I hope you will forgive that. The sad fact is that own Dad died just over five months ago and this has clearly affected my response to the beautiful father and son relationship depicted in the film.
When you lose a parent the grief is clearly there all the time to one extent or another, particularly in the early stages although I can only speak of what it is like in those first few months. Occasionally though there will be moments that really drive home how much you miss them. I have had three of these moments. The first was when I was looking at old photos, the second was when I had to fetch something from my Dad’s workshop and the third was yesterday watching About Time.
As a guy and a film fan it is at times like these I quote movies rather than articulate my feelings so I turn to the speech that Celia Johnson delivers in Brief Encounter:
“This can’t last. This misery can’t last. I must remember that and try to control myself. Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. There’ll come a time in the future when I shan’t mind about this anymore, when I can look back and say quite peacefully and cheerfully how silly I was. No, no, I don’t want that time to come ever. I want to remember every minute, always, always to the end of my days.”
Of course that is pretty melodramatic for this situation so I’ll go with the same sentiment, expressed more succinctly in the words of another splendid bugger:
“and even be glad, just to be sad thinking of you”.
So, About Time isn’t perfect and raises questions just as all time travel films do. It is not the most romantic film Richard Curtis has ever made and some of the supporting cast are forgettable but ultimately I liked it because it made me think of my Dad.
Is this one for the kids?
I would say not. It is a 12A but it contains swearing and partial nudity as well as references to sex.
Bechdel Test Score = 3