Urban Cinefile
"In reality, people defy consistency. "  -- Director Peter Duncan, on his Percy Grainger biopic, Passion
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



At the age of 21, Tim Lake's (Domhnall Gleeson) father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can't change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life-so he decides to make his world a better place...by getting a girlfriend. Moving from the Cornwall coast to London to train as a lawyer, Tim finally meets the beautiful but insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams). They fall in love, but an unfortunate time-travel incident means he's never met her at all. So they meet for the first time again - and again - but finally, after a lot of cunning time-traveling, he wins her heart. Tim then uses his power to create the perfect romantic proposal ... but that's not the end of it.

Review by Louise Keller:
There is something tangible and endearing about the way that Richard Curtis creates and describes his characters, as they experience the highs and lows, the gloss and bumps that life dishes out. Like the title suggests, the story is about time as a precious commodity, weaving together the fumbles and grumbles, treasures and magical moments that colour the world of its "too tall, too skinny and too orange" protagonist, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson). The film's delicious premise allows Tim the luxury of a dress rehearsal (or two) before the finality of living out his life. Nice idea. It's a love story, a story about family and at its heart is the special relationship between father and son.

The story begins by firmly establishing Tim's routine life and world in Cornwall, playing table tennis with his wry, quick-witted father (Bill Nighy), family picnics on the beach come rain or shine and enduring the annual New Year's Eve party. The springboard from which the story soars is the family secret that his father divulges involving time travel and which is the subject of experimentation throughout the film - with hilarious results. The initial laughs come from Tim going back in time when things do not go according to plan with a view to righting the imperfections. It takes no time at all however, to learn that it is not that easy. There are limitations to this family secret; besides things do not always turn out as expected.

There are many memorable scenes including the one in which Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) at Dans Le Noir, a pitch-black London restaurant experience in which guests socialise with each other "in the dark". The love scene that starts so awkwardly but improves with every rewind of the clock takes us, the audience into its confidence, and we become part of Tim's secret as he tries to influence his fate and those involved. Every man and woman will relate to the scene in which Tim watches while an undecided Mary tries on and discards every dress in her wardrobe before a big outing.

The script is finely tuned and so is the execution, while the performances are pitch perfect. Gleeson (son of Brendan) is wonderfully self-effacing in a role that is another version of Hugh Grant's charming, stumbling Englishman. McAdams, with her dimples and feminine manner is lovely as Mary, while Nighy is wonderfully off-beat as only Nighy (and Bill Murray) can be. All the supporting cast is good too: each character rings out the notes of truth.

There are loads of laughs and it feels as though we are in the company of friends. But there are surprises too, the biggest of which is the way the emotional textures ripen to develop into something richer when you least expect it. If you loved Four Weddings and Love Actually, you will also love this warm, funny and uplifting film that champions living each moment to the max.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Lovely idea, isn't it: live each day as if you had a second (or even third) chance at it, fine tuning and improving your behaviour, responses to others, your humanity as you go. Easier said than done, unless you are one of the male line in the Lake family of Cornwall, with a unique gift of travelling back in your own life time - with certain restrictions. Ground Hog Day with a major twist ...

Richard Curtis has constructed his screenplay with great care to avoid internal contradictions in this scenario. And he injects the same mix of comedy and drama, pathos and enlightenment into this screenplay as he did so miraculously in Four Weddings and a Funeral. In fact, weddings and funerals are also milestones in this story, events that provide endless opportunities for writers and filmmakers to observe the human condition at its best, its worst, its most vulnerable and at its strongest.

We can imagine Hugh Grant (in younger days) playing Tim Lake, but Domhnall Gleeson is less of a self caricature than Grant nowadays, and he makes Tim zing with English awkwardness and an inner strength that's all heart. Rachel McAdams is perfectly cast as the young American who is drawn into this eccentric world, where Dad is a wise old soul with some of the English reserve that makes him more like well cut English marmalade; bitter sweet.

Lindsay Duncan is a knockout as Mum, a dry old stick with a down to earth manner and a steady eye for people. Lydia Wilson as Tim's sister Kit Kat is the breakout star, delivering - in minimalist strokes - a potentially tragic character who gives texture to the film, and keeps the sweetness balanced with the bitter taste of life's meaner side. Tom Hollander's playwright, Harry, also resides on that melancholy side of the ledger, and Hollander is marvellous to watch as the acid tongue of the group.

It's all wonderfully entertaining in a truthful sort of way, and even though Curtis lets things stretch too long and get a bit too sentimental at the end (draining the film of its wonderful tension and mood), his finger is still very much on the pulse of one of cinema's most challenging but popular genres, the romantic comedy with tragic twists. Feel the joy, feel the pain .... sweet and sour. Cinematically, the juxtapose is key.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(UK, 2013)

CAST: Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Vanessa Kirby, Lindsay Duncan

PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

DIRECTOR: Richard Curtis

SCRIPT: Richard Curtis


EDITOR: Mark Day


RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 17, 2013

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021