“About Time” (2013) is a subtly clever British comedy about the special people in our lives, and it is a perfect movie for couples this Valentine’s Day who are tired of watching predictable rom-coms.
The film begins with Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) having a less-than stellar time at his family’s New Year’s Eve party. The next day he turns 21 and his father (Bill Nighy) reveals to him a family secret: all the men in their family can time travel, with the exception that he can only travel back to moments in his own life. Tim doubts his father until he tries it and it works, taking him back to the abysmal party from the night before. He makes some small changes that seriously improve the evening for himself, and the rest of the movie really just follows his life and how he uses his ability.
Tim’s first lesson in time travel occurs when his sister (Lydia Wilson) brings a friend (Margot Robbie) home for the summer. He shares in embarrassingly awkward moments with her, then fixes them, and finally, on her last night, he decides to tell her his loves her. She isn’t very welcoming of his affections, but she does tell him he shouldn’t have waited for her last night to make a move. So naturally, Tim goes back to the first night of the summer when she arrived, but this time she tells him to wait until her last night to see how she feels about him. It is at this moment Tim realizes it doesn’t matter how many times he travels back in time, he cannot change someone’s thoughts.
And again, the rest of the movie is Tim living his life with his ability to time travel. He moves to London to pursue his career, helps his flatmate become a successful playwright, meets a beautiful American (Rachel McAdams), marries her and eventually learns to appreciate each and every day of his life as it comes. The main tension of the plot occurs much later than expected, but it is such a bittersweet moment that it stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
The funny thing about “About Time” that makes it worth watching is that it raises lots of philosophical and scientific questions, and it answers none of them. Instead, the story focuses on the relationship between a father and his son and the son’s relationship with himself and his life. The writers were just kind enough to add in an element of science-fiction that gives the movie a charming and enchanting tone. It’s not a mushy-gushy rom-com, but it’s still a movie that focuses on love and appreciating the people in our lives.