We’ve been to the pictures to see the latest Richard Curtis production, About Time.
Richard Curtis is one of that select breed of film makers whose name above the credits can be in larger type than the stars. It also means you know what you’re getting – dashed handsome but drippy men, sweet ladies looking for love, dotty but lovable elders and a lengthy advertisement for the Notting Hill Tourist Board, should such an entity exist.
The plot steers away from the usual Curtis path into another beloved of the cinema since the early days of the talkies – that of time travel. Our hero, 21 year old Tim (Domenhall Gleeson) is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men of their family can travel through time, but only during their own lifetime so no assassinating Hitler or putting out the Great Fire of London. Being a Curtis hero and therefore a throughly nice chap, Tim doesn’t use this gift for nefarious ends, either. He aims to woo the love of his life, Mary (Rachel McAdams) and does so with the inevitably touching conclusion. It’s hardly original, but there’s enough inspiration in the screenplay to persevere through the moments of deja vu.
As the film progresses Tim’s relationships with both his wife and his dying father are examined and provide some touching and memorable moments, particularly when Tim decides to effectively sacrifice seeing his father again in order to protect his unborn child. Live life for the moment rather than worrying about the past, appears to be the message here. It always was going to be.
So, a typical Richard Curtis film, with an untypical Curtis plot. The rom is still there, the com depends on your sense of humour. As always, it’s set in a Britain that seems to have a population of around 10,000, all of them white and upper-middle class. This narrow view of life is a regular criticism of the director’s work and it’s more accurate with every one of his releases. The country isn’t like this anymore, if it ever was, and to pretend differently – presumably to cater for a Transatlantic audience with outdated and romanticised views of good ol’ Blighty – is asking the viewer to suspend their disbelief to an extent that’s completely unnecessary.
And yet it’s that old worldiness that makes the film what it is. Families are bonded together, relationships are for life, children brought up in a nuclear family where everything happens for a purpose. It’s ultimately all very cosy and made with the intention of sending you out of the cinema with a warm glow against the chill of the autumn night air. Curtis has said that this may be his final directing fling and if that’s the case he can honestly say that he never once gave his audience anything they didn’t expect.