About Time (2013 film)
About Time is a 2013 British romantic comedy-drama film about a young man with the special ability to time travel who tries to change his past in order to improve his future. The film was written and directed by Richard Curtis, and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. It was released in the United Kingdom on 4 September 2013.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Curtis|
|Written by||Richard Curtis|
|Music by||Nick Laird-Clowes|
|Edited by||Mark Day|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$87.1 million|
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Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young man from Cornwall. He grows up in a house by the sea with his father (Bill Nighy), his mother (Lindsay Duncan), his absent-minded maternal uncle (Richard Cordery), and his free-spirited sister, Katherine (Lydia Wilson), who is known to family and friends as Kit Kat. At the age of 21, Tim is told by his father that the men of his family have a special gift: the ability to travel in time. This supernatural ability is subject to one constraint: they can only travel to places and times they have been before. After his father discourages Tim from using his gift to acquire money or fame, he decides that he will use it to improve his love life.
The following summer, Kit Kat's friend Charlotte (Margot Robbie) comes to the house in order to spend her holiday with Tim's family. Tim is instantly attracted to her and at the end of her stay decides to tell her how he feels. She tells him that he should not have waited until the last day, that perhaps if he had told her earlier, something could have happened between them. Tim travels back in time and, the second time around, tells Charlotte in the middle of the holiday how he feels. In this instance, Charlotte uses the exact opposite excuse, saying that it would be better if they waited until the last day of the holiday, and then something could potentially happen between them. Heartbroken, Tim realizes that Charlotte is not interested in him and that time travel will not make it possible for him to change her mind.
After the summer, Tim moves to London to pursue a career as a lawyer. He is put up by his father's old acquaintance, Harry (Tom Hollander), a misanthropic playwright. After some months, Tim visits a Dans le Noir restaurant, where he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), a young American woman who works for a publishing house. The two flirt in the darkness of the restaurant, and afterward, Mary gives Tim her phone number. Tim returns home to find a distraught Harry. It turns out that the same night as he met Mary, the opening night of Harry's new play had been ruined by one of the actors forgetting his lines at a crucial point. Tim goes back in time to put things right and the play is a triumph.
Having saved Harry's opening night, Tim tries to call Mary, but discovers that her number is no longer in his mobile phone. By going back in time to help Harry, Tim chose a path in which the evening with Mary never happened. However, he recalls that Mary was obsessed with Kate Moss. By attending a Kate Moss exhibition in town, he is able to run into Mary again. He strikes up an acquaintance with her but discovers she now has a boyfriend. Tim finds out when and where they met, turns up early and persuades her to leave the party before she can meet her future boyfriend. Their relationship develops and Tim moves in with Mary. He encounters Charlotte again by accident, and this time she tells him that she would be interested in pursuing a romantic liaison with him. Tim turns her down, realising that he is truly in love with Mary. He proposes marriage; she accepts and is welcomed into his family. Their first child, Posy, is born. Kit Kat has not been so lucky and her unhappy relationship, failure to find a career, and drinking lead her to crash her car on the same day as Posy's first birthday.
Kit Kat is seriously hurt but begins to make a good recovery. Tim decides to intervene in her life and does so by preventing her from meeting her boyfriend, Jimmy (Tom Hughes). When he returns to the present, he finds Posy has never been born and that he has a son instead. His father explains that travelling back to change things before his children were born would mean those children would not be born. Thus, any events that occurred before Posy's birth cannot be changed, and Tim must accept the consequences as a normal person would. Tim accepts he cannot change Kit Kat's life by changing her past but he and Mary help her to change her life in the present. She settles down with an old friend of Tim's and has a child of her own. Tim and Mary have another child, a baby boy.
Tim learns that his father has terminal cancer and that time travel cannot change it. His father has known for quite some time, but kept travelling back in time to effectively extend his life and spend more time with his family. He tells Tim to live each day twice in order to be truly happy: the first time, live it as normal, and the second time, live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that keep us from noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing. Tim follows this advice and also travels back into the past to visit his father whenever he misses him.
Mary tells Tim she wants a third child. He is reluctant at first because he will not be able to visit his father after the baby is born but agrees. After visiting his father for the following nine months, Tim tells his father that he cannot visit any more. They travel back to when Tim was a small boy, reliving a fond memory of them playing on the beach, and afterwards have a heartfelt, tearful goodbye. Mary gives birth to another baby girl, and Tim knows he can never see his father again. After reliving each day, Tim comes to realise that it is better to live each day once, and appreciate everything as if he is living it for the second time. The film ends with Tim leaving Mary in bed and getting his three children ready for school.
- Domhnall Gleeson as Tim Lake
- Rachel McAdams as Mary
- Bill Nighy as James Lake
- Tom Hollander as Harry Chapman
- Lindsay Duncan as Mary Lake
- Margot Robbie as Charlotte
- Lydia Wilson as Kit Kat
- Richard Cordery as Uncle Desmond
- Joshua McGuire as Rory
- Tom Hughes as Jimmy Kincade
- Vanessa Kirby as Joanna
- Will Merrick as Jay
- Lisa Eichhorn as Jean
- Richard Griffiths plays a brief part as an actor starring alongside Richard E. Grant in what would be his final film appearance, with the film being released months after his March 2013 death.
By Curtis's own admission the conception of the idea "was a slow growth". The genesis of the idea came when Curtis was eating lunch with a friend and the subject of happiness came up. Upon admitting he was not truly happy in life, the conversation turned towards him describing an ideal day. From here Curtis realized that the day of the lunch, for him, constituted such a day, which led to him deciding to write a film about "how you achieve happiness in ordinary life". Thinking that the concept was too "simple" he decided to add a time travel element to the film.
Although the production contracted out various effect houses to try to make the time travelling effects feel like more of a spectacle, they found the resulting work "just completely wrong" tonally and instead focused on a more low key approach. Curtis has opined "that in the end it turns out to be a kind of anti–time travel time travel movie. It uses all the time travel stuff but without it feeling like it's a science fiction thing particularly or without it feeling that time travel can actually solve your life."
Curtis has said the film was likely to be his last film as director, but that he will continue in the film industry.
The film was initially scheduled to be released on 10 May 2013, release was pushed back to 1 November 2013. The film premiered on 8 August 2013 as part of the Film4 Summer Screen outdoor cinema series at London's historic Somerset House. It was released in the United Kingdom on 4 September 2013 and in the United States in limited release on 1 November 2013 and in wide release on 8 November 2013.
About Time received mostly positive reviews from critics. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 68%, based on 144 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Beautifully filmed and unabashedly sincere, About Time finds director Richard Curtis at his most sentimental." Metacritic, which uses a weighted mean, assigned a score of 55 out of 100, based on reviews from 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Catherine Shoard of The Guardian compared the film to Groundhog Day noting it "is about as close to home as a homage can get without calling in the copyright team" and describes Domhnall Gleeson as a "ginger Hugh Grant", which "at first, is unnerving; as About Time marches on, Gleeson's innate charm gleams through and this weird disconnection becomes quite compelling." Shoard gave the film 2 stars out of 5. Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph praised the comic timing of McAdams and Gleeson, but criticised the film, comparing it to a quilt, calling it "soft, frayed at the edges, and oh so comfortable" and gives it a score of 3 stars out of 5.
Leslie Felperin of Variety magazine called the film "reassuringly bland" and says there is sense of déjà vu especially for anyone who has seen The Time Traveler's Wife also co-starring McAdams. Unlike that film she has no knowledge of his powers, resulting in a "fundamental lack of honesty in their relationship". Felperin noted British reverse snobbery would put many off this and other Curtis films, but that this would be less of a problem among American Anglophiles and those willing to suspend disbelief, taking the characters as British "versions of Woody Allen’s Manhattanites (but with less angst)". Felperin praised the chemistry of the leading couple "that keeps the film aloft" and the supporting cast, while also criticising the stock characters as being too familiar.
The film became a surprise hit in South Korea, where it was watched by more than 3 million people, one of the highest numbers among the foreign romantic comedy movies released in Korea. It grossed a total of $23,434,443 there, higher than in any other country.
Megan Gibson, writing in Time magazine, commented "sci-fi fans out there likely won’t be able to see [the film's] charms through the gaping time-travel plot-holes", pointing out that the main rules as explained to Tim by his father are violated:
- Only male members of the family can travel in time
- Only travel to the past is possible
- It is impossible to travel back to before you were born
- Travelling back to a time before your child is born may cause a different child to be born and the original child to be lost.
The film's internal logic about time travel was also criticised in other reviews:
- The Independent says the explanation of time travel is "shockingly inadequate" and that "Curtis keeps leaving questions unanswered – time and time again"
- Steve Cummins of the Irish Post refers to Tim travelling backwards and forwards in time when he says the film is "riddled with plot holes"
- Matthew Turner points out the "big problem is the unsightly pile-up of plot holes and logic problems"
- Kate Erbland of Film School Rejects states "the rules and limitations of Tim's gift aren't exactly hard and fast, and the final third of the film is rife with complications that never get quite explained. Rules that previously applied suddenly don't apply ... the time travel rules aren't exactly tight and are occasionally confusing".
- Track listing
|1.||"The Luckiest" (About Time version)||Ben Folds||4:04|
|2.||"How Long Will I Love You"||Jon Boden, Sam Sweeney & Ben Coleman||2:46|
|3.||"Mid Air"||Paul Buchanan||2:28|
|4.||"At the River" (Radio Edit)||Groove Armada||3:10|
|5.||"Friday I'm In Love"||The Cure||3:34|
|6.||"Back To Black" (Explicit)||Amy Winehouse||4:00|
|7.||"Gold in them Hills"||Ron Sexsmith||3:31|
|8.||"The About Time Theme"||Nick Laird-Clowes||2:22|
|9.||"Into My Arms"||Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds||4:13|
|10.||"Il Mondo"||Jimmy Fontana||2:42|
|11.||"Golborne Road"||Nick Laird-Clowes||2:16|
|12.||"Push the Button"||Sugababes||3:37|
|13.||"All the Things She Said" (Original Edited)||t.A.T.u.||3:35|
|14.||"When I Fall In Love"||Barbar Gough, Sagat Guirey, Andy Hamill & Tim Herniman||3:02|
|15.||"Spiegel im Spiegel"||Arvo Pärt||9:24|
|16.||"How Long Will I Love You?"||Ellie Goulding||2:34|
|17.||"Mr. Brightside"||The Killers||3:42|
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- "About Time". The Numbers. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- "About Time (2013)". Box Office Mojo.
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- Kemp, Stuart. "'War Horse' Writer Richard Curtis to Direct Time-Travel Script 'About Time' for Working Title (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Child, Ben (19 January 2012). "Richard Curtis decides it's About Time he directed a film about time travel". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Rome, Emily. "Rachel McAdams rom-com 'About Time' gets new release date". Inside Movies. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Billington, Alex. "Interview: 'About Time' Writer & Director Richard Curtis on Happiness". Firstshowing.net. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Child, Ben (July 31, 2013). "Richard Curtis: 'About Time will probably be the last film I direct'". The Guardian.
- Pulver, Andrew (11 May 2012). "Rachel McAdams to star in Richard Curtis romcom About Time". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Chang, Justin (2012-03-27). "Deschanel, Gleeson on 'Time' for Working Title". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- "Film4 Summer Screen: About Time Competition". Channel 4. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- "About Time (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- "About Time". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- Shoard, Catherine (8 August 2013). "About Time – first look review". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- Collin, Robbie (8 August 2013). "About Time, review". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- Felperin, Leslie (8 August 2013). "Richard Curtis returns to a quintessentially English milieu with this sweet, familiar and reassuringly bland romance". Variety.
- 김, 진성. "'어바웃 타임' 300만 돌파, '로코' 흥행 기록 다시 썼다". TV Daily (in Korean). Archived from the original on 18 March 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
- "International gross figures from Box Office Mojo". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Kermode, Mark (8 September 2013). "About Time — review". The Guardian.
- Gibson, Megan (5 November 2013). "Plot-holes and Problems in Richard Curtis's 'About Time'". Time. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- Barber, Nicholas (30 August 2013). "Why time does not travel well in Richard Curtis' new film About Time". The Independent. London.
- Cummins, Steve (6 September 2013). "About Time: Film Review". The Irish Post.
- Turner, Matthew (4 September 2013). "About Time Film Review". ViewLondon.co.uk.
- Erbland, Kate (1 October 2013). "'About Time' Review: Time-Traveling Charmer Arrives Right in the Nick". Film School Rejects.
- About Time Soundtrack on iTunes