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ABOUT TIME – The Review

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Time to make another trip to movie “rom-com” land once more. Now let’s keep a stiff upper lip, since it’s set in jolly ole’ England, which as Roger Miller’s song says “swing like a pendulum do”! Okay, what are they offering across the pond? Seems they’ve tossed a big dollop of fantasy into the mix, namely time travel! Well that’s been used before in an effort to get couples together, from the McFly saga to TIME AFTER TIME and KATE AND LEOPOLD. What if I tell you this new flick is from Richard Curtis the droll, witty writer behind NOTTING HILL and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. Oh, and this is his third directorial effort after PIRATE RADIO and the cult classic LOVE ACTUALLY. Hopefully that will pique your interest. Enough background info, let’s talk about his latest. Hey, it’s ABOUT TIME.

Tim (Domnall Gleason) is an easy going young man who lives in a gorgeous seaside house along with his regimental Mum (Lindsay Duncan), dotty Uncle D (Richard Cordery), free-spirtited older sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), and his gregarious, irreverent Dad (Bill Nighy). On his 21 st birthday everything changes for Tim when his Dad shares a secret, all the men of the family can time travel, starting on that special Bday. But they can only zip about during their own lifetime, so no chasing dinosaurs. You just need to enter a dark, quiet enclosed space (a closet is perfect), close your eyes and concentrate (clenching your fists helps), and you’ll be back in that moment of time that you desire to be. Tim gives it a try and boom! He’s back at a disastrous New Year’s Eve party. Soon Tim leaves for London to work for a law firm, but he uses this gift sparingly. Then he meets the adorable transplanted American Mary (Rachel McAdams). Will his hidden talent help him win her heart?

Curtis has assembled a talented cast that hits just the right notes in a script that goes from whimsical to raunchy and even touching often in the same scene. Gleason, previously seen as one of the Weasley brothers in the Harry Potter series, make a likable everyman. He’s sensitive without being cloying, and is very funny when exasperated as he tries to keep his time jumps straight in his head. We’re always rooting for him even as he sometimes exploits his magical powers. But in the pursuit of the dazzling Ms. McAdams, can we really blame him? She’s always charming with a cute, quirky sense of style. And her romantic verbal duets with Gleason crackle. There’s wonderful comic support from Cordery as the pixellated Uncle, and Tom Hollander as Tim’s surly, but endearing playwright landlord Harry. Wilson has great energy as the flitting sprite whose high spirits mask her tragic love choices. But the film’s MVP, and perhaps its heart, is Nighy as a father we all wish we had. He’s warm, funny, and full of wisdom. His Dad knows just the right things to do even as he faces the darkness with a smile and a quip. When Nighy is on-screen the film bursts with his vibrant life force.

Screenwriter/director Curtis has a great deal of fun with the story’s fantastical elements, but never goes off track from the tale’s very human truths. Life is fleeting and it favors the bold. We can’t turn back the clock for a rematch. But this twist on GROUNDHOG DAY  and TV’s “Quantum Leap” still has a lot of fun with the conceit and the inevitable rules. Seems that each time flick has its own set of irreversible laws and this film is no exception. With all the heavy, somber serious Oscar-bait films filling the multiplexes this time of year, this frothy London-based charmer is quite the unexpected treat. If you’re in the right mood for a fantastical fantasy of finding and sharing love, then try to make the time for ABOUT TIME.

4 Out of 5 Stars

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Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.

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