Thursday, November 14, 2013

On About Time and beautiful sentiment

Richard Curtis, who wrote and directed this film, has earned the odd distinction of being the perfect sentimental movie writer/director for my taste.  (I'm sure he's thrilled at this honor.)  The previous two movies he directed--Love Actually and The Boat That Rocked--unabashedly mix humor and romance with heaping amounts of straightforward, heartfelt sentiment, and both are among my all-time favorite movies.  In About Time, Curtis again focuses on familiar targets, including romance and father/son relationships, again mixes humor and romance and sentiment--and again leaves me loving the result.

The key plot gimmick is a simple bit of pseudo-SF:  When a man in the protagonist's family turns 21, as the protagonist just did, he can travel back in time--but only to moments in his own life.  Later, rules appear, and the protagonist also gets a sense of the cost of time travel.  Over the course of the film, we watch as first his romance and then his life with a woman he loves unfold, and we also see his touching but always understated relationship with his father. 

The movie makes several key mistakes in its handling of time travel, though they all boil down to inconsistent application of the rules.  It also skirts a central issue:  Deceit--his use of time travel to manipulate things--is the very foundation of his relationship with his love.

None of that ends up mattering, though, at least not if the movie works for you, because the metaphor that time travel provides speaks to the very heart of the film, a simple message:  Enjoy every moment you're alive, and particularly enjoy the moments with the ones you love.

Stripped to its barest minimum, this message, like all profound ones, sounds dopey and obvious, but of course it never is, for few, if any, of us are capable of doing that.  I certainly am not.

More importantly, most of us don't go to fiction of any sort--films, books, comics, whatever--for the messages.  We go for the stories, the characters, the plots, the escapes.  The story and characters--all the key actors really deliver the goods--of About Time so charmed me and carried me along that I loved every minute of it, and it moved me deeply at the end, even though I was very aware that Curtis was expecting to move me.

If you hate his other two films, I'd guess you will hate this one, too.  If you don't know his work, though, or if you liked those movies, or if you're just in the mood for a beautiful film about love, both romantic and familial, then do not miss About Time.

No comments:


Blog Archive