About Time


Starring : Domnhall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie

Director : Richard Curtis

Release Date : 26 Sep 2013

It’s been a while since the writer has seen a movie as enriching and uplifting as this.

REMEMBER when you were a kid and you thought if you wished for something hard enough, it could actually happen? Like you could go back in time to when your dead hamster, well, wasn’t dead. Or, minutes before you accidentally spilled soda on Mum’s favourite RM1,000 rug.

So with eyes tightly shut, fingernails dug deep into the palm of your hands, you believed with all your heart and ta-daa! Hamsty is still dead and there is now good reason to cry over that spilled soda – Mum is standing before you.

But it turns out that if you’re one of the men in the Lake family in the Richard Curtis-helmed About Time, it actually does work.

The film tells of the (mis)adventures of the time-travelling Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson). And yes, that’s basically how it works. He steps inside a dark, confined space, closes his eyes, and wills the period in time that he wants to travel to into existence.

The film begins with Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) breaking the news to the 21-year-old about his special abilities. Incredulous but curious, he climbs inside a cupboard and tests out the theory. His first order of business? Planting a kiss on a girl.

Unconventional star: Domhnall Gleeson may not be one of those drop-dead gorgeous leading men we usually see, but he gives an impeccable performance as the ‘too tall, too thin, too orange’ Tim Lake in About Time.

Yes, landing a girlfriend is top priority for the gangly, socially awkward Tim. And so, when he hits it off with the nerdy, Kate Moss-loving Mary (Rachel McAdams) after meeting at a dine-in-the-dark restaurant, Tim is convinced he has finally found his match. But on the same night, his uncle Harry’s (Tom Hollander) play turns out to be a disaster. He decides to turn back the clock and save the show.

Unfortunately, being present at the theatre means Tim would not have met Mary, changing the course of history. Undeterred, Tim tries to woo Mary, who now sees him as a stranger, all over again.

He uses his time-travelling skills to repeatedly travel back to his first date, using any knowledge he gained from the last one to improve the next one, and it works – they fall madly in love with each other.

The gift is both a blessing and a curse. Each time Tim goes back in time to fix a bad situation, he is faced with the possibility that the good in his life may be taken away as a result. It is this messy internal conflict that the protagonist finds himself tangled in throughout the show.

It may seem like Tim is only using his ability for superficial purposes, like hooking up with a girl, at first; but About Time is far from just a romance flick.

Misleadingly marketed as a rom-com, the movie explores the bond shared between Tim and his father, as well as his sister, using time travel as a medium to delve into these relationships and others.

What the film does – and does so well – is that it takes our fascination with time travel and points it to something bigger. Fundamental questions about life and death, love and sacrifice, are raised.

The message is simple: live, truly live every moment – see its colours, feel its textures, listen to its heartbeat – and then move on. And the best part about it is, this message gets delivered so organically, it feels almost unintentional. The show doesn’t make it a point to come off as “inspirational”, it just is.

Now, if you’re getting the idea that this show might be a little too heavy, the film is actually chock-full of light-hearted moments. The time travel concept gives rise to some hilarious and sometimes plain silly moments.

With a cast of eccentric characters – Tim’s free-spirited hippie sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), his dim-witted uncle Desmond (Richard Cordery) and his eager-to-impress sidekick Rory (Joshua McGuire) – there is no shortage of laughter.

Gleeson’s portrayal of the “too tall, too thin, too orange” Tim will also undoubtedly capture hearts. He comes across as endearing, charming, but most of all, relatable. He is just a guy who simply wants to make life work – as we all do.

Meanwhile, McAdams doesn’t shine much in the film, but it’s just as well, since it’s not meant to be a rom-com anyway.

With so much going for it, it’s surprising not many have given this film the time of day.

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