Film festivals are often full of surprises. One of the great things about going to them is that you often know little to nothing about the film you are about to see. No more so is this the case than with The Surprise Movie at Edinburgh International Film Festival. It could be anything from a gritty indy pic to a gross-out frat-boy comedy.
Well this year it turned out to be a Richard Curtis film. Something I was not ecstatic about. But I’d paid for my ticket and I would get to see it a few months before its cinematic release. And hey, there’s Domhnall Gleeson who I quite liked in that episode of Black Mirror so I may as well give it a chance.
The story opens with a 21-year-old Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) finding out from his father (Bill Nighy) that he can time travel. However, there are restrictions, he can only travel backwards in time, and only to places where he was at the time.
The rest of the film covers the next 10-20 years of his life as Tim attempts to get married, as well as look after his sister and deal with other family troubles that come along.
The film is charming, funny, and engaging for its runtime. And generally the interactions between Tim and love interest Mary are insightful and well written. However, its greatest strength and weakness is simply that it is a Richard Curtis film. Therefore it suffers from (or maybe you feel benefits from) the following characteristics:
1) No one has any real problems
People may seem like they have problems. Like Tim, not having a girlfriend, his flatmate not getting good reviews, or Tim’s sister Kat having an abusive boyfriend. However, these are soon overcome with a wave of Richard Curtis’ magic wand never to cause any problems to the characters again. In short the breezy manner in which people were able to forget about their problems left me feeling very uneasy and made it clear we were firmly in movieland.
2) Everyone seems to have come straight out of a period drama
Maybe people know those who have grown up living on the beach in lovely country houses, where they have tea and watch movies on a projector outside. I don’t. Like all of Curtis’ films his characters belong to a world I find it very difficult to relate to, or understand. It just all feels like every character has been plucked from various Victorian novels.
3) Its message seems to have come straight out of a self-help book
The whole film is narrated by Tim. Just before the credits he closes by saying something like: “Appreciate the small things in each day.” Which sounds great, it’s just that when it’s delivered as though it’s the first ever film to say such a wise and thoughtful thing you begin to get just a little bit angry at its level of sanctimony.
So to conclude, About Time is a Richard Curtis film. That’s all you need to know really.