Movie: About Time; Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie, Richard Cordery; Director: Richard Curtis; Rating: **1/2
Set in a characteristically middle-class English milieu, "About Time" is a sci-fi romantic comedy whose premise is very much on the lines of "Back to the Future" or "The Time Traveller's Wife", where the protagonist can travel back in time.
In an idyllic sea-side town in Cornwall, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is like any other ordinary boy leading an ordinary life. He is adorably geeky but embarrassingly incompetent in matters of the heart.
On his 21st birthday he is let into a family secret. His father (Billy Nighy) waveringly tells him, "The men in the family can travel in time, any time, but mostly ones' personal timeline, hence killing Hitler is not an option." He categorically states that this is some kind of hereditary gift that involves nothing more high-tech than focusing at the timeline with clenched fists in a darkened room.
Tim soon puts his newfound skill to use by reversing awkward and disconcerting moments to woo girls. But gradually he learns from his failed attempts with his sister's best friend Charlotte (Margot Robbie) that some things just aren't meant to be.
So he moves to London to find a future as a lawyer and a friend for companionship. He puts up at the home of his dad's friend, the caustic, embittered playwright Harry (Tom Hollander) and soon meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), a reader at a publishing house, after a blind date in a pitch-dark restaurant. They click and exchange numbers promising to meet soon.
But no sooner does he arrive home, he realizes that he was supposed to be at Harry's play that night. So to fix the blunder he goes back in time. But by doing this he blows his chances of meeting Mary, and so he must find another way to engineer their "first" encounter.
Using his special powers, he transforms himself into her ideal partner by rewinding the clock every time he needs to correct ill-conceived statements or messy misunderstandings. This leitmotif throws up a few intensely inspired moments along the way, including a first-night sexual encounter that transforms Tim from lackluster to red-hot.
Also, in his efforts to save his sister Katherine (Lydia Wilson) who is fondly called "Kit Kat", from trauma, Tim learns there are some events that can't be changed without unravelling others. And eventually, it's a long happy ending.
As for the performances, Gleeson as Tim delivers an utterly charming performance. He has a radiant and believable chemistry with both Rachel and Nighy, since the father-son relationship is given equal emotional weightage as the central romance.
Nighy's affable, easy-going patriarch is especially good in a prickly role that's funny and endearing. Rachel is competent and smoothly glides as Gleeson's love interest. Lindsay Duncan as the garden crazy mother of Tim is wacky, weird and wasted.
Of the rest of the supporting cast Lydia Wilson, as Tim's dysfunctional sister and Richard Cordery, as the mentally challenged Uncle Desmond, are dazzling and exceptional.
With a quaint background score and good production values, the film is visually decent, even though there is ample use of the hand-held camera.
Though there are a few short comings in the narration, writer-director Richard Curtis's 'About Time' is a sweet and soothingly evocative romance, guaranteed to raise a few laughs.