‘About Time’ is not your average Rom-Com
It’s been 10 years since the movie “About Time” graced the screen, and it’s still one of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen. While there are many wonderful rom-coms, “About Time” encompasses all of the best aspects of rom-coms with a heartwarming couple, funny awkwardness, and a beautiful conclusion. I love these elements in rom-coms, but "About Time" brings even more to the table that makes it one of the best rom-coms, even after nearly a decade has passed.
As a British-American movie, “About Time” reached the screen for the first time in London on Aug. 8, 2013 before fully reaching the international stage on Nov. 8, 2013. Directed by Richard Curtis, “About Time” follows Tim Lake, who learns at the age of 21 that the men in his family can travel in time. We follow Tim’s romantic life as he struggles with love, ultimately meets his love interest, Mary, and embarks on a joyful, messy, and beautiful life with her.
The casting of “About Time” is nearly perfect and truly brings the story to life. Domhnall Gleeson plays Tim Lake. Gleeson is perfect as the character of Tim, who describes himself as “Too tall. Too skinny. Too orange” at the beginning of the movie. Gleeson creates a lovable, awkward protagonist that makes it impossible to stop watching. His quiet smiles, jubilant celebrations, and infectious laughs scream charming, goofy, and fun. For me, having a likable lead is crucial in all rom-coms, and Gleeson’s work as Tim is masterful. I cannot imagine anyone else playing the character of Tim.
Tim’s counterpart Mary is played by Rachel McAdams. I believe that the casting of McAdams falls just a little short as McAdams does not perfectly fit her character description — “I look a bit like a squirrel,” Mary says. With that being said, Gleeson and McAdams have great chemistry and effectively portray the love the two characters have with each other. With playful, authentic dialogue, it’s impossible to deny how smitten the two are for each other. While McAdams certainly doesn’t look like a “squirrel,” she delivers on all other aspects of her role.
There are many amazing cast members in “About Time,” but Bill Nighy as Tim’s father gives a standout performance. Tim and his father are clearly very close but in a dorky, fun way. They love playing table tennis and having chats about books. This is my favorite relationship dynamic in the movie, and I think both actors do a spectacular job bringing this father-son relationship to life. With just one facial expression, Nighy can have the audience both bursting with laughter and crying over the beauty of family bonds.
“About Time” does a remarkable job balancing the light-hearted fun of romance, while also injecting doses of reality that makes it relatable, despite the time-traveling elements. The movie attempts to be realistic and doesn’t shy away from conflict and loss. In many rom-coms that I have seen, there are standard fights about cheating, miscommunication, and many other tropes, but this movie explores realistic dialogue and events. For instance, when Tim accidentally allows the kids to destroy some of Mary’s work documents, a big fight ensues. This is a realistic argument based on the mundane elements of life, such as work and family.
Additionally, unlike many other rom-coms that end with the couple getting together, “About Time” goes beyond the happily ever after to life after marriage. The marriage is also not completely traditional, as Mary is pregnant at her wedding, and she wears red rather than white. Red wedding dresses are a bold statement, but signify love and passion — a perfect description of Mary’s character. I think red is the perfect color because Mary is an independent woman, yet passionate in her love for Tim. Many rom-coms fall into the standard formula of a perfect white wedding, but in reality, this is not always what happens. Relationships are never perfect, but they can still be considered happily ever after. Life is complicated, and “About Time” is a fun and charming representation of a love story in an imperfect world. This makes “About Time” stand out among the inundation of romantic comedies.
While “About Time” is inherently connected to this idea that Tim can time travel, I hope you can see that the movie is anything but a science fiction movie. Instead, “About Time” utilizes time travel as a comedic element that pushes the plot forward. Starting with Tim’s discovery of his ability and continuing with a seemingly endless stream of awkward social interactions, Tim’s use of time travel is often used to erase everyday human mistakes — very relatable, in my opinion. This is something that “About Time” does so artfully; it takes this sci-fi dominated plot line of time traveling and uses it to remind us of what it means to be human. Everyone wants to forget that awkward comment spoken at a party, but that’s not how life works.
The use of time manipulation also introduces this motif of time within the greater context of love, family, and life. Throughout the movie, Tim learns how to best use his time-traveling abilities, but he must stumble through and learn from his mistakes. Ultimately, “About Time” delivers a more profound message that transcends the basic “guy gets the girl” narrative that many rom-coms follow: This movie makes you appreciate the simple and beautiful things in life. This is a powerful message, as the world seems to be moving at super speed. However, it’s important to value time and the moments you experience every day. As Tim says, “We're all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”
A truly remarkable romantic comedy, “About Time” delivers a heartwarming romance and a life lesson that leaves every viewer with a new appreciation for life. If you haven’t watched this movie, I 1000% recommend it.