In the latest iteration of the sci-fi romcom, the protagonist of Richard Curtis’s self-declared final film can jump back in time to any moment in his past. (The ability has been, somewhat retrogressively, a birthright of the men in his beloved family.) And like the characters in Alan Lightman’s book Einstein’s Dreams, a certain lifestyle evolves from these rules: Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) re-plays events in his present-day life in order to perfect them but eventually develops a self-knowledge grounded in more than just romantic love.
Almost comically reviled in certain quarters of the British press, Curtis brings his customary seamless Nottinghillizing touch to the people and locales of About Time. As Curtis’s red-haired hero, Gleeson stars alongside Rachel MacAdams as his American love-interest-turned-life-partner and a typically sly Bill Nighy as dear old Dad. After mining the courtship for miscue humor and amorous glow, Curtis moves on to the fraught challenges of choosing life priorities, conveniently illustrated by its time-travel narrative (and ample voiceover).
Akin to a children’s novel (the sort where the shadow of death fuzzily looms), About Time turns into a successfully sentimental family film in the literal sense of the term. And through the time-travel conceit, Curtis persuasively conjures an invocation to mindfulness at the center of his much-criticized knack for shmaltz.