All good things must come to an end. As a writer and more recently a director, Richard Curtis has warmed the cockles of the nation’s heart with his rose-tinted romantic comedies that suggest every bumbling, accident-prone Englishman gets the impossibly beautiful girl with a combination of expletives, dry humour and good fortune.
Our love affair with Curtis started in 1994 with Four Wedding & A Funeral, which earned him an Oscar nomination for his screenplay, and has continued unabated through Bean, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually and various sequels.
About Time is purportedly his final film (as director – he’ll carry on writing) and it is a fittingly amusing and heartbreaking swansong.
Set largely in London with occasional forays to the picturesque Cornish coast, this bittersweet romcom concerns not only saying goodbye to the people you love, but also bidding farewell to childhood and the safety net of a parent’s guiding hand.
Admittedly, Curtis is guilty of old habits.
His characters are almost exclusively white, upper middle class, and seem to be able to afford sizeable properties in the capital despite modest salaries.
Once you accept that realism is a distant stranger to certain elements of the writing, About Time casts a heady spell.
Shortly after he turns 21, nice guy Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is ushered into the office of his father (Bill Nighy) for a revealing heart-to-heart.
‘Get ready for spooky time!’ begins the old man with a twinkle in his eye, revealing that Tim harks from a long line of male time travellers, who can go back along their own timeline to correct past mistakes and relive fond memories.
Tim is stunned by his father’s outlandish claim and with obvious scepticism, he heads for the nearest dark cupboard and clenches his fists as instructed.
Sure enough, Tim is able to skip back through his personal history.
The young man begins to master this new skill, which comes in very handy when he crosses paths with an insecure beauty called Mary (Rachel McAdams) and bungles their first meeting.
With the benefit of time travel, Tim corrects wrinkles in the relationship and romance blossoms.
However, every correction risks ripples through time and Tim gradually learns that there are some imperfections which must never be smoothed.
‘All the time travel in the world can’t make someone love you,’ Tim’s father reminds him tenderly.
About Time is a treat.
Cast in the everyman role usually reserved for Hugh Grant, Gleeson is a loveable hero and catalyses wonderful screen chemistry with McAdams and Nighy.
Laughter abounds, tempered by the poignancy of sequences between Tim and his father, which are among Curtis’s finest work on the page.
Secret plenty of handkerchiefs about your person – the final 15 minutes will wring you dry.