Posh families tend to be eccentric. They don’t care what other people think because they have each other and are protected by the cultural apparatus of the privileged classes.
About Time is not suggesting that it’s about time they changed. It’s saying this family is even weirder than most because, from the age of 21, the eldest male progeny has the ability to travel back in time.
“You can’t kill Hitler, or do anything big like that,” Dad (Bill Nighy) explains.
But if you make a fool of yourself in the sack with the girl of your dreams, you can rerun it and do better second time round.
Writer/director Richard Curtis has a particular talent with lead actors. They are immensely likeable, which means they screw things up without making a lot of noise.
He is less successful with women. Mary (Rachel McAdams) is Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) soulmate and yet she has no personality whatsoever. His sister (Lydia Wilson), on the other hand, has too much and goes into manic overdrive at the drop of a glass, while his mother (Lindsay Duncan) drifts about in the middle distance doing vague gardening things.
This is really about love (actually). Time travel is an add-on that doesn’t work as a plot enhancer. If you can replay your life whenever get it wrong, where’s the drama?
On the plus side, Tim is a shy, self-effacing, thoroughly decent chap who hasn’t a clue about girls. Gleeson gives him character and broadens his narrow appeal where otherwise he might have been too wet to vet.
And, of course, there is Nighy, doing what he does with hesitant charm.
The film, however, is a huge disappointment. The family lives in Cornwall and has Chekhovian pretensions, wasted by giving Tim magical powers and taking him off to London where he becomes, of all unlikely things, a barrister.
Curtis is caught between upper-middle class observations of social interaction (ref: embarrassing wedding), love and marriage and time travel.
He comes to the table with three packs of stories. Trouble is, they don’t shuffle.