As far as movies your girlfriend is going to drag you to, Richard Curtis’ new movie About Time is… okay. It isn’t good but it isn’t terrible, and that’s due in large part to Domhnall Gleeson‘s self-depreciation, Bill Nighy’s witty comments, and Rachel McAdams being beautiful and forgiving.
The movie opens with a typical, awkward, Michael Cera-like dude at a New Year’s Eve party. His name is Tim and he’s knocking drinks and tables over with his long, gangly arms. Tim has offensively orange Weasley hair and he’s mastered a sad smile as if to say, “I’m sorry I’m the worst.” The party eventually counts down to the New Year and to establish his awkwardness, Tim leans in to kiss a friend and at the very last second he shakes her hand. I know.
The next morning, the cure to Tim’s inability to socialize comes in the form of his father, played by Bill Nighy. Tim’s dad tells him that at 21 years old, the men in their family can suddenly travel through time by going to a dark room, closing their eyes, and squeezing their hands together into a fist. Kinda sexist that only men are given this gift and women must remain oblivious, but okay, forgivable. Tim’s sister, like many women in the history of the world, doesn’t share the same luxury as her male counterpart. She doesn’t get a supernatural second chance despite being the only character in the entire movie who desperately needs one.
One of the rules in time traveling is that they can only travel backwards to a past they experienced, which eliminates the plot line to kill Hitler. Miraculously, changing one’s past doesn’t create a butterfly effect. Bill Nighy lists these rules as if to brush off plot holes irrelevant to the story. But these things don’t matter anyway: like all dorky, hopeless dudes, Tim decides he has no interest in killing Hitler. He will use this extraordinary ability not to bet tons of money on World Series games or play the lottery but to fall in love with a girl, any girl.
Enter Rachel McAdams’ character Mary, who — get this — IS ALSO AWKWARD. If Rachel McAdams doesn’t know how to carry a conversation, there’s no hope for anyone else. Tim doesn’t have to worry about his shaky hands or inability to speak a coherent sentence without stammering because he can rewrite his most embarrassing moments over and over again until he gets it just right. “I’m Kate Moss’ biggest male fan,” he says confidently, having practiced variations of the sentiment numerous times before. Their relationship made me cringe with second-hand embarrassment but they were also funny and entertaining at the very least. While this may be “cheating,” the film glosses over the immorality of manipulating a girl into falling in love through time travel, but rather puts forward the notion that it’s alright because they’re meant to be together anyway.
The movie could have ended there, and although it may be advertised as a Romantic Comedy, About Time endeavors to tackle another issue: death. Again, Tim tries to go back in time only to discover the obvious. He realizes that dying is inevitable and one must enjoy every single day, every single moment as if time travel didn’t exist. For women and normal folk, we have to do this anyway.
In short, Tim learns to be present, to embrace the bad parts, and to enjoy each day as if he wouldn’t get a do-over. The last 10 minutes served as a great reminder for how to live our lives, but you could have just read that off a fortune cookie. And you’d be 10 bucks richer.