About Time (2013)

(On Cable TV, December 2014) On one hand, this is a terrible science-fiction film.  On the other hand, this is an excellent science-fiction film.  Those aren’t necessarily contradictions, if you accept that SF is at its best when it aims to illuminate facets of humanity and if you accept that genre SF has evolved to be as self-consistent as possible.  Written and directed by Richard Curtis, a talented artist with no background in genre SF, About Time firmly belongs to the naïve school of SF that believes that the worst logical flaws are irrelevant as long as viewers are moved by the emotional consequences of the science-fictional device.  And on that point, About Time is quite successful: While its time-traveling device isn’t much more that fuzzy wish-fulfilment (go in a closet, close your fists and wish really hard) with no consistent set of rules save for those that can be ignored by dramatic impact, the film does manage to poke at some of life’s biggest emotional dilemmas in a way that feels relatively fresh.  It helps, of course, that it’s part of the gentle British rom-com tradition: Domhnall Gleeson makes for an affable romantic hero, whereas Bill Nighy steals every scene as an amiable man who has figured out much of his life.  The film is a bit of a slow burn, starting in firmly comic territory before going into heavier themes.  Sure, it’s frustrating that the rules of the premise don’t seem to hold together, or that lies seem built-in most of the protagonist’s relationships.  But the film itself is pure charm, and such likability goes a long way in leaving viewers with a big smile and a bit of a heartache.

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