Carpe Diem is a mantra that is easier said than done. We are often plagued by what the future may hold or bogged down by the weight of yesterday. But if you had just one chance to relive those moments in your life that affected your life or multiple chances just go get it right, would you take it? Those who live by that carpe diem mantra wouldn’t, but I’m sure there are those out there who would like to give yesterday or the last hour a much needed redo.
Such is the premise of Richard Curtis‘ About Time. A romantic time traveling film starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy. This, unfortunately, will be Richard Curtis’ last directorial effort of his career, as he is leaving to focus his future endeavors on philanthropic work. So while this may seem like the end, Curtis is making sure that his final film of his directing career will be a memorable one.
In the film Domhnall Gleeson plays Tim, a rather quiet but charming young man whose father (Bill Nighy) tells him that the men in the family have the ability to time travel. The rules are that they cannot go beyond their own time line, meaning they cannot travel back to a date before their birth and they cannot go into the unknown future. Tim doesn’t quite believe this at first, but when he discovers that this is true, he decides to fix a few things to see how much of an affect it will have the second time around. As Tim’s life progresses, he finds out that there are some things that cannot be fixed. But when he finds Mary (Rachel McAdams), he refuses to let his second chance at love escape.
While there are rules to time travel, the film is more of a kaleidoscope of take-twos and do-overs than actual time travel. The film actually acknowledges that the butterfly effect, which is a huge theory in time travel, doesn’t factor into the rules of time travel in this film. Which is a bit weird considering all the loop holes it can create. But considering this is also a romantic film, I think we can give it a pass. In fact About Time can be a bit of a misnomer.
Now as much as Tim tries to fix everything and redo everything to make sure that his life is perfect, he comes to find out that not everything can be smoothed out. But a lot of what we see that Tim tries to fix isn’t entirely focused on his relationship with Mary, but more so on his father and his sister, Kit Kat. After Mary give birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter, Kit Kat suffers a serious car accident. To prevent this from happening, which is a result of a chance meeting with a lazy boyfriend, Tim takes Kit Kat into the past to make sure the two do not meet. However, upon his return to the present time he finds out that that once his child was born travelling back to a time before the child’s birth will in fact stop that child from ever being born as time will happen differently in every aspect of his life.
Most of what Tim tries to fix with his relationship with Mary is more of saying the right thing, or making sure their first night of sex is just right. We hardly ever see the two fight or argue, and if we did, most likely Tim would have edited it out of his life. Perhaps that would have been a bit too easy.
Which is why About Time balances Tim’s relationship with Mary with his Father. Tim loves his father just as much as he does Mary. The two have a one of a kind budding relationship that goes beyond father and son. The two sees each other as best friends, with Tim’s father dispensing his wisdom to his son on when to time travel and how to use it properly. Beyond that, they share a fondness of music from unheard of Italian artists and table tennis. Something that will be relevant towards the end of the movie.
Ultimately, About Time is a fascinating tale about love, the chances you will take to make things right. Looking past the loopholes, the film is a perfect blend of sci-fi and romance. Curtis definitely knows how to tug at the heart strings and turn on the water works, and while the film does give us a look at what we would do over, the underlining message is carpe diem.