‘About Time’ Is a Time-Travel Movie, But It’s Not Sci-Fi

Forget alien abductions or warp speed spacecraft because neither exists in the romantic film About Time. While time travel plays an upfront point in the movie’s plot, it really is a love story between Tim, (played by the brilliant Domhnall Gleeson) and Mary (the always entertaining Rachel McAdams) with family dramas and adorable meet-cutes.

About the main character

Rachel McAdams attends the 7th Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center on November 4, 2018 in Mountain View, California.
Rachel McAdams | Taylor Hill/Getty Images

While McAdams is smart and sassy as the love interest, this film shines due to Gleeson’s sweet portrayal of a time traveler named Tim who uses his ability to navigate the space-time continuum for good albeit basic circumstances.

Tim is not interested in stealing government secrets or stopping assassinations. The topic of becoming a superhero and saving the planet is not broached. He instead visits his past mostly to avoid uncomfortable situations, such as a mishap New Year’s Eve kiss.

Thanks to family genetics, the men in Tim’s family can travel through time. Tim’s father, played by the talented Bill Nighy, shares the family secret with Tim when his son is an adult. From there, life takes on new meaning for the main character as the storyline progresses. Once again, there are no sci-fi antics, but at times the characters and their situations do touch on the meaning of life. 

About actor Domhnall Gleeson

While actor Domhnall Gleeson is no stranger to science fiction films, remember he was General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He was also big brother Bill to Ronald Weasley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I and Part II. Plus, do not forget his turn as a lucky, or (spoiler alert) unlucky, contestant winner in the artificial intelligence thriller Ex Machina.

Too bad all of that sci-fi acting was not required for his role in About Time. His character, Tim, needs only find a dark and solitary space in order to transport to another time dimension. While this sounds like a journey for astronauts or secret military agents, it is basically just a blink. With no hoopla or flair,  Tim bends time and space to visit the past and return to the present.

With only the world of Hogwarts being an exception, none of Gleeson’s other films involved characters who jump time loops and change history. About Time does alter outcomes. It also includes hilarious and touching moments where Gleeson’s character repeats first dates and even gets a little help in the bedroom. 

About the movie’s plot

While at times the jaunts to Tim’s earlier days seem frivolous and fun, it does not take long for him to figure out that things cannot always be fixed with a brief visit to the past.  Relationships are a main focus for this film, especially the relationship between Tim and Mary and Tim with his father. The love story is the most prominent, but the father-son scenes are touching too.

By jumping back and forth from the past and present, Tim is able to connect with Mary in a series of awkward interactions that are funny and heartwarming. He is also able to appreciate his father and family in new ways. 

Again, time travel is prevalent in the film, but there are no dragons, no poisonous plagues, and no space wars ensuing in the skies. This film is everything a good romantic flick needs to be to win over audiences. And when Tim finally gets it right and meets Mary properly for the first time, an almost universal sigh of relief can practically be heard, even if watching the movie alone with headphones.

About the happy ending 

Besides Tim and his father, all the other characters are pretty much left in the dark when it comes to the time-traveling ways of these two men. There are no deep-seated suspicions by side characters or a lust for power from the father or the son. 

Tim never once travels in reverse in order to go back and try to win the lottery or blackmail a wicked politician. About Time focuses on Tim finding love, connecting with his family, and being happy in a life he built through moment-worthy interactions. 

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