The Reel: Gleeson, McAdams shine in ‘About Time’

Ben Conniff

As if the Delorean had lost any of its nerdy staying power, “Love Actually” director Richard Curtis brings us a Marty McFly for the Nicholas Sparks generation in “About Time” – a charming romantic comedy that both guys and girls can dig.

Upon turning 21, Tim (“Harry Potter”’s Domhnall Gleeson) learns that he’s inherited his father’s ability to travel back in time.

Lonely and unsatisfied with his existence, he uses his gift to get a girlfriend and right the wrongs of every embarrassingly awkward moment along the way.

After moving to London and courting Mary (Rachel McAdams), things get even more complicated when his family life begins crumbling.

It’s here that Tim realizes that there are some events he can’t fix without undoing the outcomes of others.

Curtis’s script chronicles several years of Tim’s life – focusing primarily on the 20s and early 30s – to show the lessons he learns from his newfound power regarding life, love, acceptance and the importance of family.

But the sappy sentimentality balances out with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, making “About Time” much more appealing to both sexes than the melodramatic “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

Both films are conceptually similar and feature McAdams in starring roles.

While “About Time” takes a more lighthearted approach to the formula, Mary is never privy to her man’s special ability like Clare is in “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

I found this to be the biggest issue with the former because it just seems far-fetched.

Mary never asks, so Tim never tells.

There isn’t so much as a hint or inkling of desire to share his secret with her.

If Mary had questioned it, or if Tim had shared at some point, a fascinating dimension would’ve been added to the relationship between these two characters.

As it stands, the film still thrives on Gleeson’s comedic timing and everyman appeal, which together prove that not all gingers lack souls.

The chemistry between him and McAdams remains believable throughout, which makes their interactions a blast to watch.

Bill Nighy gives a typically affable performance as Tim’s father – a retired academic who spends his days reading Charles Dickens, practicing ping-pong and drinking tea on the beach.

But the title of “scene-stealer” belongs to Tom Hollander (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”) who stars as Harry, a lowly playwright whom Tim moves in with in London.

His scathingly pessimistic attitude warrants some of the film’s best lines, including a Monty Python reference and the comparison of Tim’s mother to an Andy Warhol lookalike.

There’s an interesting thematic pattern in these time-travel movies.

From “Back to the Future” to “The Time Traveler’s Wife” to “About Time,” the stories always seem contingent on themes of loss, or even death.

Something is always at stake.

For Marty McFly, his very existence depended on him going back to 1955 to ensure his parents met for the first time on prom night.

Henry risked forfeiting his relationship with Clare forever in “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

In “About Time,” Tim chances fond memories of his past in favor of starting a family of his own.