It’s about time that a film this year is worth raving about!
Here it is, gentlemen – another fine romantic comedy that guys can love and appreciate just as much as the women in our lives. ‘About Time’ is an epic film whose grandeur expands beyond the simple “rom-com” label. It encompasses every aspect of life. It’s the rare aesthetically-pleasing piece of entertaining art that changes your perspective on how you live your life. I loved ‘Gravity’, ‘Captain Phillips’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ this year, but it will take stiffer competition than those to dethrone ‘About Time’ as my vote for Best Picture.
If you don’t know much about Richard Curtis’ ‘About Time’, keep it that way. This is a movie where you don’t want the whole thing spoiled by the trailers. Basically, here’s all you need to know: ‘About Time’ was written and directed by the brilliant Brit who gave us ‘Love Actually‘. It stars Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan Gleeson) as a kid who learns at the age of 21 that the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time. Rachel McAdams plays the love interest. Bill Nighy plays the father. The film is absolutely whimsical.
Don’t assume that you’re headed into a standard romantic comedy. Yes, there’s a rom-com element to ‘About Time’, but that’s only a fraction of what the movie is really about. The story covers an enormous amount of ground without feeling rushed, forced or condensed. In a seamlessly episodic fashion, it’s about maturity, family, integrity, childhood, parenthood and happiness, as well as romantic love. When the credits rolled, I didn’t immediately gather my belongings and shuffle through the doors to the lobby. I sat there, unmoving. I paused and took a deep breath, thinking about certain aspects of my life and how they pertained to the many (not at all preachy) morals of the story. And then I got up and saw the world through a new pair of eyes. In the days that followed, I reflected back on the film and the feelings that it left me with. As corny as it sounds, I pondered what I could do to become a better person. I can only think of a few films that have left me as inspired as this, but this is easily the most powerful of them.
I know what you’re thinking: “Luke, you’re a romantic fool. What makes you think that everyone will have this same experience?” Let me tell you why.
I first screened ‘About Time’ in late September. Having a newborn and a recovering wife at home, I took an old college buddy as my guest rather than my wife. He was the same friend who introduced me to ‘Love Actually’, so I figured that I owed him one. Amidst the audience, there were two other critics – both of which have very different taste from myself or one another. I knew that ‘About Time’ was something special when the lights came up and all four of us, my guest included, had red eyes. None of us moved. We all went through this same experience that I just described. Four grown men who usually dart from screenings the moment the credits roll just sat there. Once the credits ended, we walked and talked on our way out, each sharing the exact same sentiment. The studio reps explained that the general audience’s consensus had been the same.
But don’t take my word from just that screening. Another screening was held a few weeks ago on the night before my birthday. Loving the film so much and wanting to share it with as many people as possible (and because it was Birthday Eve), I was allowed to bring extra guests. So, I returned with my wife and a few other couples. Not only did every one of my friends experience the same thing that I had, but the rest of the audience actually cheered and applauded as the credits began. Not a single one of the impressions that I felt during the first screening was lost. Four weeks later at my second viewing, the movie held up magnificently. Now able to talk about it at home with someone who had seen it, that feel-good inspirational feeling lingered for much longer. Without doubt, when ‘About Time’ expands wide next weekend, I’ll see it again.
I know that it’s not conventional for a reviewer to open up so personally and intimately about a pair of viewing experiences, but this is the best way for me to express the brilliance and perfection of ‘About Time’ without spoiling the story. I’ve been moved by films to stop eating this or start doing that, but nothing close to the life-changing extent that this one has inspired. Combine that power with the entertaining, likeable, positive and charming-as-hell characters and story, and you have an absolutely perfect film, possibly even one of the best of all time.