Skip to Content

Cinema

About Time review: If Richard Curtis is brilliant at anything, it’s Upper Middle Class Lifestyle Porn

7 September 2013

9:00 AM

7 September 2013

9:00 AM

About Time

12A, Nationwide

The easiest thing would be to sneer at Richard Curtis’s new film About Time, and so I will a little, or maybe significantly. It’s hard to know at this point, as I’m up here, at the beginning, and the end is down there, at the bottom, and who knows what will happen in between. It’s as much a mystery to me as to you. However, pre-sneering, in whatever amount, I should make clear that if you have enjoyed Curtis’s previous films— Four Weddings, Love, Actually, Notting Hill, but not The Boat That Rocked, which we’ll pretend never happened, as that’s best all round — you will enjoy this. It’s more of the same, pretty much, as our bumbling hero searches for love, bumblingly. It’s sweet (she says, sneeringly) but, try as I might, and I did try, I just could not find it interesting or affecting, in any way.

The film opens in a gorgeous, huge, rambling pink house by the sea in Cornwall. (If Curtis is brilliant at one thing it is Upper Middle Class Lifestyle Porn). It is home to Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), and his father (Bill Nighy) and his mother (Lindsay Duncan), and his sister, Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), and their Uncle D (Richard Cordery). Gleeson,  it merits saying,  is actually fantastic at playing what he is called upon to play, which is Hugh Grant now Hugh Grant is too old to play Hugh Grant. Bumble, bumble, awkward pause, bumble, bumble. You know the score.


Then one evening Tim, who has just turned 21, is summoned by his father, who tells him the men in the family have the ability to travel through time. There are certain rules, which are rushed through, probably so we don’t think about them too hard, which would be a mistake. I thought about them quite hard, and that was a mistake, as there are so many illogicalities. Anyway, the deal is Tim can’t go forwards in time, only backwards, and he can only travel back to moments in his own life, so can’t assassinate Hitler before he’s had a chance to do anything atrocious, or even Simon Cowell. Tim chooses to use his new-found ability to find a girlfriend, which displays a rather limited imagination, but there you have it.

He first tests it out on ravishing Charlotte (Margot Robbie), the cousin of a cousin or something tenuous, who has come to stay for the summer, but messes it up. He moves to London, to become a barrister, and meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) at that restaurant in Clerkenwell where you eat in the dark. They fall for each other, but then a time-travel disaster means he’s never met her at all, so he has to find her and woo her all over again. The best scene is when they first have sex, and it’s not great, so he goes back in time to do it over. And over. And over. Until she goes ‘Wow!’ Quite funny (she says, sneeringly). This isn’t, by the way, a film that does women any favours. The wonderful Lindsay Duncan isn’t given anything to do beyond deadhead the odd rosebush. Kit Kat is a tedious, silly mess who, it appears, simply needs a good man to sort her out. Charlotte is purely a sex object. Mary is blandly wet, and although I don’t wish to sneer at her wardrobe of quirky tea-dresses, I find I can’t help it. Seriously, how many quirky tea-dresses does a girl who likes quirky tea-dresses actually need? Meanwhile, Tom Hollander plays an angrily bitter playwright for no real narrative purpose whatsoever, and while I liked kindly Uncle D, I couldn’t tell you what he’s doing in this either.

Once Tim and Mary get it together you think right, that’s it, we can all go home now, phew, but it goes on. And on. And on. And on. They marry and have a child. Then another. Then another. One of the time-travelling strictures dictates that once a child is born, you cannot go back to before the birth, but the film then doesn’t bother to observe this. We’re simply expected not to notice. Eventually, finally, and at long last, it ends in a burst of sentimentality so cynical I couldn’t even be bothered to cry — and I can cry my way through Doc Martin! — while delivering the following message: living for today is best, and family matters above everything. The other thing Richard Curtis is good at is Big Loving Functional Family Porn.

I don’t know if I’ve sneered too much at this, too little, or just the right amount. Sneering is generally its own boss. But what I can tell you, with certainty, is that I’m now off on holiday for two weeks, and I need the rest. I don’t want to end up all sneered out.


Show comments
Close