About Time (d. Richard Curtis UK 2013)

About Time (d. Richard Curtis UK 2013)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews.

 

With this film it was easy to expect a romantic comedy. There is romance, there is comedy. A certain importance is given by the protagonist about romance. But I think we’ve all missed the point. Instead we should be focusing on the title itself. About Time. Closest to a drama, this is a film about time. We’re not considering any elements of romance or sex. We’re not being swept away with soppy romanticised stories of boy meets girl. I have not seen the trailers but I doubt that they could give you an accurate depiction of this film. The only clue as to what the film is like and is about, is the title itself. Though, if you’re familiar with the work of Richard Curtis, it may give some clues as well.

 

One of the impressive elements of the film is its narrative structure. Complicated but not overly so. The film sets up a basic premise, like in Memento (d. Christopher Nolan USA 2000), Irréversible (d. Gasper Noé France 2002), Inception (d. Christopher Nolan USA/UK 2010) or Paprika (d. Satoshi Kon Japan 2006). This premise manipulates time and space in a simple fashion. The play with continuity is, somewhat, secondary to the film. A complete understanding of this premise and its rules isn’t needed to enjoy the film. In fact, what’s going on motivates you from scene to scene without letting you worry about how you got there. This complexity is both daring and masterful. I’m astonished to see many people being able to follow the films events so clearly and with so much enjoyment, without getting bogged down by the complexity of its narrative. This blend of art and entertainment is exactly the type of thing that cinema should be striving for and I really commend the film for its merits here.

 

Following on from genre expectations touched upon in the introduction. It is clear that this film isn’t typical of any genre. In fact, in the premise set out early on by the film, About Time ties in elements from other genres setting up expectations of where the film is going to take them. It is almost possible to describe the narrative ‘episodic’ in the use of genre. What is set up by one scene, is unexpectedly completed within the next few scenes, constructing episodes of different genres within the narrative whole. In this way, it is easy to believe that the episodes would last longer than they do and particular moments and characters would crop up much later. The use of genre and narrative is something that is given a secondary role in the much larger purpose of the film – its theme. The premise functions to communicate a particular theme. A theme so well explored by the film – but unfortunately given a rather spoon-fed summary at the films end. (Spoiler: Being able to travel through time, is used to show that we should have no regrets and to live each day as if we chose it all. Because we essentially did. Quite a life affirming statement.)

 

The film also boasts some spectacular performances from the cast and the power of each scene wouldn’t survive well without them. So, in spite of everything that can be said for the impressive nature of the script and direction, the characters are just as essential in the films success. (Seriously, not meaning to put down any other roles within the film.) This is an example of what cinema should be and should aim to be. I was most impressed with this film, I wish there were many more out there.

 

Further Reading

rottentomatoes.com

metacritic.com

About Time Official Site

Interview with Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson

Interview with Bill Nighy

Interview with Richard Curtis



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