Thursday, October 17, 2013

About Time (2013) movie review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: realistic and relatable characters, terrific cast chemistry,  conceptually deeper than the typical romance story, rich in life lessons

The Bad: wonky time travel concept that breaks its own rules,

3D Readiness: Not available in 3D
IMax-ability: none

Have you ever looked back on your life and thought "what could I have done differently"? Have you ever wished you could re-live a wonderful moment over and over again? Well young Tim Lake has the ability to travel back in time, same as his father, and his grandfather. Tim is not exactly the handsomest of men; he is an awkward, shy and slightly introverted character. Yet with these new found abilities he tries to make life better for himself and those he care about by altering little events in his past. This brings him to Mary, the woman of his dreams. When a change in the past almost erases their relationship, Tim holds back on using time travel unless only for the most important things. As his relationship with Mary grows from friends to family, Tim slowly learns that sometimes one has to let go of the past in order to fully embrace the present and work toward the future.

ABOUT TIME is possibly one of the few romance movies that subvert the "typical" romance tropes. It is not overly sappy or awkward like the asian ones, but neither is it over sexualised or shallow as hollywood ones. It is an earnest little fairy tale that, refreshingly, frames a love relationship into the eventual outcome of a happy marriage and a family (unlike many which just ends with the couple in bed together). This earnestness is helped by well written characters, particularly Tim who goes through a complete coming of age tale that many can relate to.

Starting from a socially inept teen with aspirations of dating the hottest girl in town, Tim soon realises that looks is not everything and settles for Mary, a woman who truly complements his character. We follow him as he grows into a confident adult and a loving father. Actor Domhall Gleason shares perfect chemistry with Rachael McAdam's Mary, making their relationship all the more "real". But the true breakout character is Tim's elderly yet charismatic father played by Bill Nighly who we find out has used his time travel abilities to relive precious moments in life, knowing that his life is soon coming to an end.

Yes the movie does skimp pass the less desirable aspects of relationship to present a very idealistic image of romance: the squabbles, the arguments, they are never present. Family life too skims over the baby crying at midnight, the smelly diaper changes, adapting one's lifestyle around the child etc. But hey, fairy tale is fairy tale, and the movie would be three times the length if one were to go into the specifics of relationship trials and family tribulations. 

ABOUT TIME's only flaw is how it trips over its very own concept.
At the very onset, two simple rules are set down about time travel.
1)  He can't travel forward in time
2) Travelling to a time before the birth of a child will alter who that child is.
Yet Tim travels back and forth in time multiple occasions, and travelling past the birth of his child only altered his child the first time. Subsequent time travels, including one back to Tim's childhood, did not cause such changes. Any newbie to science fiction can see how WRONG the whole time travel gimmick works. Does he physically travel back in time? If so, why does he not meet his past self. Does his mind travel back in time and inhabit his past body? This is true for the first half of the film where he decides to travel back to help out a friend instead of going on a date. But later on, he seems to be in many places at once when he travels to the past, being able to do what he did and do what he wanted to do. 

The easiest way to deal with this is to not take the time travel aspect literally. Instead, it is merely a metaphor for a strong human tendency to revisit our past and relive precious moments.ABOUT TIME brings up many life lessons. If we change who we were, we would never be who we are. If we change what happened to us, no matter how embarrassing or how negative, we would never be where we are today. All things, good and bad, happen for a reason and that reason may not seem clear at first. Sometimes something bad has to happen for someone to learn a lesson and change for the better.

So there is no point trying to change the past. One should only cherish the present, for it is a gift. Take joy in the little things, settle the negatives and live it in such a way that in the future, one would never have the desire to change his past.

*****************************Review End***************************

Go For it: for a absolutely refreshing, pro-family take on a typical romance fairy tale with deep life lessons
Avoid it: if you just want those stories where the guy has sex with the gal

Entertainment: A
Story: A
Acting: A
Characters: A-
Music: C
Replay value: A
"Brains": A-