Since its release in 2003, Richard Curtis’ ‘Love Actually’ has firmly established itself as one half of the essential approach-to-Christmas entertainment duo, the other being Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is you’. Similarly, when the festive season is not in session, ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary and ‘Notting Hill’ are two films that will feature in about 99.999% of all women’s DVD collections. Now, with his latest foray into female film collection domination, ‘About Time’ brings us a ridiculous (but effective) time travelling tear jerker, that manages to not only keep you well entertained for the full 123 minutes, but also does a pretty good job of reminding you that sometimes the nice guy can finish first.
After a forgettable New Years Eve party at his parents house, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, Harry Potter and True Grit) is summoned by his father (a reliably jittery but brilliant Bill Nighy) in order to be bought into the fold on a long standing family secret. That secret, as ridiculous as it sounds, is that the men of the family are able to travel back in time, by simply clenching their fists whilst standing in in a dark cupboard. The moment this is revealed, there’s almost an audible and dismissing ‘LOL’ from the audience, but as the time hopping method is woven into the story, it becomes a means to an end – that end being the morale of the tale – rather than a standalone showpiece.
As Tim stumbles awkwardly through his average life, he makes regular use of his far from average power, choosing to replay not only good moments (being a young man, you can guess what this is) but the bad moments too, all in the hope of not only making right that which he believes to be unjust, but also re-living the good moments in a more hyperbolic fashion. ‘Live for the moment and have no regrets’ is the lesson we’re being aimed toward here, but interestingly this entirely flies in the face of the concept of time travel. Perhaps that’s the point Curtis is making though – even if we did have more ‘control’ over our own stories, we would still need to shoulder the fact that these stumbles and tragedies are sent to test us for all the right reasons, despite there being no obvious ‘why’ behind them. Everything does happen for a reason, but understanding that reason isn’t something we should expect to conquer. As someone once said, ‘life is very complicated, don’t try to always find answers because when you find answers, life shall change the questions’.
According to Curtis, this is his directorial swan song, which would explain why he tried to switch up his usual formula by adding in the superhero powers. The time bending addition however doesn’t cloak the fact that this is unmistakably a Curtis special – middle class lovelies getting in pickles, successfully getting themselves out of said pickles, experiencing the odd ‘stuff of life’ tragedy, then all feeling lovely again at the end – and all of this somehow adds up to what he does best, that being creating what are timeless nuggets of feel-good genius. He’s a one trick pony, but this trick is something he’s honed very much to perfection
You’re not really challenging our intellects, beliefs or outlooks Mr Curtis, but we love (and need) you for what you do. Don’t go changing, and how about a Love Actually 2?
3 out of 5
Sugar-coated yes, meaningless schmaltz no. Enjoy.