Movie Review: About Time

Consider the following description: a movie with no computer-generated graphics, no crucial plot twist, no triple-A cast, no explosions, and it features time travel. Sounds boring, right? If it does, then you may be a victim of Hollywood saturation, and that’s not an insult or anything. Big movies with big budgets often produce breathtaking cinematic experiences, with or without amazing stories to back them up. Which is probably why About Time felt like a breath of fresh air.

With its simple and unassuming plot, the goal of this film is just to get you to think about life for two hours, and make it enjoyable nonetheless, because let’s face it: there’s a lot of nastiness and bad things in life, and thankfully, About Time isn’t one of ’em.

The Good

The main plot point for this movie is that an average bloke discovers the ability to travel back to any point in his life and relive it onward. Rather than try to get insanely rich or become some sort of superhero, our protagonist immediately knows what he wants: to live a happy life, starting with finding a girlfriend.

Am I a sucker for romance movies? Probably not. Am I a sucker for love? Eh… The point is that About Time does an excellent job at portraying the romantic aspect of its story, and a big reason for its success is that it’s not a romance movie. This is a story about life, and love just happens to be a part of that, and so as we watch Tim win over Mary, and then follow their married life, it all seems believable, and even hopeful and inspiring in the lovey-dovey way. Inexplicably I found myself giddy when they finally met at the museum (but don’t tell anyone, okay?), probably because the two main characters are normal everyday persons, both easy to relate to and easy to like, and this is all established within the first ten minutes.

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Oh please work out please work out please work out

And no, marriage is not the end of fun or happiness, as other comedy movies like to propagate. We follow Tim and Mary as they go over life’s hurdles, and the film is noteworthy for its honesty. Life sucks sometimes, so much so that not even the ability to travel back in time can fix everything, as the movie convincingly demonstrates. The movie maintains that there isn’t a shortcut to all of life’s problems, and putting in the effort to solve them will be worthwhile in the end, and I’m totally on board with that message. This film won’t make you laugh or cry (too much), but it’ll get you thinking, and nodding your head with approval and enlightened wisdom, whether it’s seeing Tim deciding to propose to Mary, or helping out his sister through a tough time. About Time is a feel-good movie, and that’s all it needs to be.

One last thing: the supporting cast is to be commended for their performance. Like a good novel, the side characters all feel distinctly alive and fulfill some purpose within the story. As with any genre, a good script can make all the difference, and About Time is all the more cohesive and entertaining for it.

The Bad

There is nothing overtly terrible about this film, but being a movie about time travel, inevitably there would be something nonsensical about the plot. Early on we are told the rules of time travel within this universe: Tim can’t go into the future, and we don’t have to worry about the butterfly effect. It is only near the end of the movie that we learn Tim can bring people with him and he can also go back to his original starting point, which is odd since changing the past would’ve brought about a new future.

A second thing that was a little bit annoying was Uncle Desmond. We know all male members of Tim’s family have the ability to time travel, and Desmond is Tim’s uncle, therefore he should be able to go back in time as well, and we do indeed always see Uncle Desmond in fancy clothing, suggesting that he uses his ability in a more greedy manner. There also appears to be something wrong with his awareness or memory, and throughout the entire movie I was just waiting for these two recurring motifs to manifest into something substantial (Uncle Desmond is the villain? Time travel has a side effect?), but that moment never came. It is strange to show the audience Chekhov’s gun only to have it fire a blank.

The Rom-Com That Isn’t

I don’t watch a lot of romantic comedies, but the ones I have seen are either too corny or not funny. By not being a romantic comedy, About Time is free from tropes and stereotypes. This movie is not intellectual or high art or anything, but I reiterate that its greatest strength is its honest perspective on life. As the old proverb says: you can’t write bad if you write honestly. The double advantage is that you can’t inadvertently belittle the audience, and they can relate easier to everything happening in the plot.

Besides the trials and tribulations of Tim and Mary, the film also explores being a parent, both new and old, the father-son relationship, death, regret, conviction, and a few more heavy-handed topics. But the movie never feels like its lecturing to us. Instead, all throughout the ride we’re just rooting for Tim in all his awkwardness. That is how good storytelling is done.

About Time is about as real as it gets.
About Time is about as real as it gets.

In Conclusion…

Watch it! It’s a cute movie that’s heartwarming and thought-provoking, and a good snuggle movie overall, whether it’s with your SO or a giant stuffed teddy bear. In addition to its simple presentation, the movie possesses a casual and sincerely optimistic outlook on life, and that too is a nice change from your typical modern-day drama.

This has been a gamobo review.

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