Time travel is a tricky concept to pull off in any medium, especially film. If the movie is “about” time travel, it can easily get bogged down in trying to explain the mechanics and paradoxes involved in said time traveling. The best time travel films (like Back to the Future and Looper) aren’t really about time travel at all, but instead put the focus on the characters and story so that any specifics regarding how it all works become secondary. This is true of writer/director Richard Curtis’ third directorial effort About Time, which is a surprising turn from the director behind Love Actually and Pirate Radio that manages to balance humor, heart, and time travel in equal measures, resulting in an effectively emotional gut punch. Read my review of About Time on Blu-ray after the jump.
As I said, the best time travel movies are the ones that refuse to delve into the minutiae involved in the conceit, and About Time wonderfully side-steps these issues by laying everything on the table at the onset. On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is informed by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in their family are able to travel through time—including Tim. The sequence is handled beautifully by Curtis, with Gleeson and Nighy hitting just the right comedic beats to keep things light while this admittedly ludicrous premise is introduced. Tim sets about testing his newly discovered time travel abilities on the one thing he wants most in the world: a girlfriend.
After some humorous failed attempts, Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), an American, in one of the best meet-cute scenarios I’ve seen in years. The two stumble across each other as strangers at a Dans le Noir—a restaurant in which everything takes place in pitch-blackness. After returning home to find his roommate (Tom Hollander) in shambles following that night’s botched performance of his play, Tim uses his time travel ability to fix the performance and therefore turn his roommate into a hit playwright, but in the process he erases his meeting with Mary.
Tim eventually tracks Mary down again and the two hit it off (after a couple of failed attempts, again), and the rest of the film follows the two as their life together unfolds—time travel ability in tow. The heart of the film, though, is Tim’s relationship with his father, and Nighy’s understated yet charming performance is absolutely crucial to the film’s success. Their scenes together are fantastic, making later developments in the story that much more affecting. Moreover, the performances throughout the film are all great, as McAdams makes it easy to feel like Mary is someone Tim would fall head-over-heels in love with and Tom Hollander brings a swell amount of dry comedic relief.
In another filmmaker’s hands, it would have been tempting to make About Time a movie about a guy who uses time travel to make his life great. Under the creative direction of Curtis, though, the film becomes a simple and touching snapshot of life with a unique point of view. Our lives unfold so quickly that it’s hard to stop and actually appreciate where we are and the people around us at any given moment. We always imagine that our life’s highlights will be the big moments: new job promotions, big weddings, graduations, or any number of “firsts”. But in actuality, it’s the little moments that we end up cherishing the most. About Time is a film entirely about these little moments told with restrained passion, organic humor, and a whole lot of heart.
The film has a pristine visual transfer presented in 1080p with no noticeable flaws, and the same can be said about its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
- Audio Commentary – Richard Curtis, Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Vanessa Kirby, Lydia Wilson, and Tom Hollander all contribute to this entertaining audio commentary track. Refreshingly, they all recorded the track together so it’s quite conversational.
- About Tim and Time Travel – A 5-minute featurette focusing on the film’s use of time travel, as Curtis and his cast discuss the mechanics of the device and how it’s used in the movie.
- The Style, Look, and Locations – Curtis and his crew talk about, fittingly, the style, look, and locations of the film. He originally wrote the pic with Scotland in mind for the main location, but later changed it due to logistical reasons. He also discusses how they shot the Dans le Noir scene.
- The World of Richard Curtis – The filmmaker and his cast talk about the recurring themes throughout his three directorial features and the fact that About Time will most likely be his last.
- Deleted Scenes – A collection of four deleted scenes, all with intros by Curtis. A scene shot on Abbey Road is a highlight.
- Blooper Reel – A three-minute long collection of bloopers, introduced by Curtis.
- Music Videos – The Blu-ray also includes a featurette/behind-the-scenes music video for Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest” and a proper music video for Ellie Goulding’s “How Long Will I Love You?”
Though at first glance the premise might seem either too complicated or too saccharine, Richard Curtis avoids both of these pitfalls in practice, offering a thoughtful, heartfelt, and genuinely funny look at the important things in life. About Time is buoyed by an unendingly endearing lead performance from Gleeson and fantastic supporting turns by all involved, specifically McAdams and Nighy. The Blu-ray lacks a more extensive look at the making of the film, but the featurettes included go beyond simple EPK fare, which is a nice touch. If you enjoyed the film in theaters, this is a solid purchase. If you’ve never seen the film and are on the fence, know that this is far deeper and engaging than a run-of-the-mill romcom and features a strong father/son story.
Film Grade: A-
Blu-ray Grade: B+