About Time (2013) — Rewriting your own history to perfection

“We’re all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”

Justin’s rating: What would you do differently if you could read this review again for the first time?

Justin’s review: What if on your 21st birthday, your father called you into his study to reveal that the men of your family always had the singular ability to travel back in time in their own lives? (We call that “Quantum Leap Rules.”) This is the bizarre conversation that kicks off About Time, where affable Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers that he can, in fact, hop back in time any day he chooses.

Better yet, Tim realizes that he can tinker with his past to improve his present life — most notably, his love life. But as his father James (Bill Nighy) warns him, he’s in for a complicated journey. Changes to the past can better or worsen his current circumstances, including taking friends away and setting into motion long-lasting consequences. That’s why the men of that family use their powers in a more quiet and subtle way, such as appreciating an extra-fine day or reading all of the books in the world. Of course, if he messes it up, Tim can always go back and try again… right?

Usually. Mostly.

Months after first discovering his strange ability, the fumbly, bumbly Tim bumps into Mary (Rachel McAdams) and forms a strong connection. But after he uses time travel to erase that first meeting in favor of helping his roommate put on the best play ever, is there any chance at getting a second — or third — shot at love with this girl? With time whimsy, anything’s possible!

I had About Time recommended to me several times, and now that I finally saw it, I can understand why. It’s a charming British movie with a light layer of comedy, quirky characters, a comforting narrative voice, bouncy energy, and the unusual approach to a romantic connection. Like Groundhog Day, this film reels us in with the question, “What would you do if you could do the same day… only more perfecter?” You’d never mess up a first kiss, a crucial decision, or a regret. Sounds pretty amazing. I’m quite jealous of Tim.

And while Tim certainly takes advantage of his powers for corrections and opportunities, he does eventually discover that time travel comes with a huge caveat that places a limit on what he’s actually able to do. This forces him to make a decision between the people he loves — and between his past and his future.

There aren’t many movies that’ve made me cry, but I’m not ashamed to say that by the end, this turned out to be one of them. Stupid emotions.

While About Time comes with a few pockets of melodrama, it’s by and large an uplifting movie that was a bright spot on a cold, bleak winter day for me. The time travel is almost an afterthought to the great cast — perhaps my favorite British grouping since Four Weddings and a Funeral. I think this might be the kind of film that I’d feel comfortable recommending on the spot to anyone who needs a solidly good film that touches on a nice variety of genres without getting too deep into any one.

Didja notice?

  • “There was this… nature thing”
  • “Get ready for spookyton!”
  • You can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy
  • The Amelie poster
  • That is such a formal proposal of love
  • “Big lesson number one: All the time travel in the world can’t make someone love you.”
  • The date in the dark is pretty cool
  • “It’s the Titanic of play openings… with no survivors.”
  • You know that when you meet the parents for the first time, you’re going to blurt out something horrible
  • Ha that’s not a radio after all
  • Kit Kat’s running hug tackle of Mary
  • “I will take off one item of clothing for every decision you make.” “OK, young lady, you have my attention.”
  • That’s a windy rainy wedding day
  • Watching Tim go crazy during the dress sequence

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