UK, 2013, 123 minutes, Colour.
Domnhall Gleeson, Rachel Mc Adams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Lindsay Duncan, Margot Robbie, Lydia Wilson.
Directed by Richard Curtis.
Best not to give up on this comedy because it gets better as it goes on - and on.
It has been written and directed by Richard Curtis, best known for his writing of such comic events as Blackadder and Mr. Bean, as well as writing films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. He directed Love, Actually which was a hit. He directed The Boat that Rocks which drew no enthusiasm whatever from this reviewer! He is now back on track with romantic comedies.
The centre of the film is Domnhall Gleeson whom we first see at the age of 21, seemingly a born loser in personal relationships, a fiasco at a New Year’s Eve party and the expected kiss. However, his father calls him in for a talk and explains that the men in the family have a capacity for time travel. This is a limited gift, mainly and enabling the traveller to go back to a specific place and time and rectify a past mistake. This, of course, provides some humour as Tim does a fair amount of correcting and improving the past. Especially true of his choice of best men at his wedding and dealing with their successive speeches until he gets the right one.
Actually, for a lot of the film, Tim seems a real dill or, as another reviewer put it more politely, gormless. He leaves home in Cornwall, goes to work in a legal office, finds a room in the home of an acquaintance of his father, an extremely eccentric playwright, played with all stops out by Tom Hollander.
Seemingly hopeless in love, he goes with his best friend to a restaurant where the meal is served in darkness, people having conversations without knowing what the others look like. When he gets out into the light, he sees Mary, played by Rachel Mc Adams. It would be nice to say that Tim becomes less of a deal, falls in love with Mary and they live happily ever after. Without spoiling the end of the film, we know that actually they will be in love, marry and live happily ever after. But it is a difficult trek to get their as Tim keeps using his time travel to rectify situations which often mean that he changes his story so that he has to keep re-introducing himself to Mary.
As mentioned earlier, the film goes on and on, not just finishing with the nice romance and marriage but proceeding to show Tim and Mary and their married life, the bonds with Tim’s mother and father, Lindsay Duncan and Bill Nighy, his wayward sister getting her life in order, and the time when it will be necessary for Tim to give up his privilege. Throughout the film, Tim is very close to his father, but this theme is particularly strong in the latter part, Bill Nighy showing an unexpected warmth with his son.
Which means, again, the message of the film is that we don’t need to rely on gimmicks to fix your life but to have confidence in yourself, rely on yourself, accept your responsibilities.
There are quite a number of Richard Curtis funny lines and eccentric situations, especially the fiasco of the wedding with so much rain beating down on the guests and the tent. And there is an eccentric old uncle who is charm itself but is not exactly with it and creates quite some humour with his offhand remarks and questions.
Not a particularly memorable film, pleasant in its way, what the publicists call a ‘date movie’.
1. A romantic comedy? Time travel? Fantasy? Reality?
2. The concept of time travel, for individuals, specific times and places, rectifying situations? The limits for the time travel?
3. The British tone, the family, eccentricities, wealth and leisure?
4. Cornwall, the sea, London, digs, the dark restaurant, the theatre, the streets, homes? The musical score and the range of songs – topical, lyrics?
5. Tim, his voice-over, the narrative, his being something of a nerd, his hopes, romantic?
6. New Year’s Eve, his awkwardness, not kissing? His friends? His sister? His parents? His 21st birthday, his father telling him about time travel, his disbelief, going into the cupboard, rectifying New Year’s Eve?
7. The further episodes, the last night with Charlotte, the theatre and his talking with the actor, mistaking the actor with forgetting his lines, getting the words and holding them for the actor? The various searches for Mary, avoiding her boyfriend, learning about Kate Moss and the model’s history, the repeats of the sexual encounter and his prowess, the awkward situation with Charlotte and her friend, gay or not?
8. Tim’s father, retiring from the University, reading, Bill Nighy’s particular style and voice? Telling his son the secret? His reaction? Tim’s mother, her hobbies? Uncle Desmond, benign, gentlemen, his mind gone, his awkward questions and observations? Kit Kat and her wildness?
9. Tim going to London, his legal work, Rory and his friendship, the other friends? Going to Harry’s house, Harry and his abruptness, having ideas for his play? The performance and the actor losing his lines, the newspapers review? Tim and his going back, encountering the actor and his abruptness, in the audience, the other actor and his blackout, helping him with the lines? The acclaim?
10. Going to the restaurant, in the dark, the talk, the lights coming up, seeing Mary, the attraction, her phone number, walking with her, Kate Moss and the chat, her being a reader for a publishing company? The next meeting, Rupert, her boyfriend? The talk? His going back and changing the situation, the awkwardness with Mary, knowing about her name, the second attempt and the discussions about Kate Moss? Sharing, walking? The sexual encounter and the repeats? The romance continuing? The collage, their time together, the song with the buskers in the underground? Her American parents, their visit, Tim putting his foot in it about the relationship? Rectifying that situation?
11. The effect on Tim, Mary, her parents, encountering Charlotte in the street, the memories of her holiday in Cornwall, the attraction, the last night and his attempts to relate to Charlotte, starting again? The awkwardness of meeting Charlotte, her friend Tina, the discussions about gay relationships? His running from Charlotte, immediately proposing to Mary, the sleepiness, on his knees, her acceptance?
12. Mary’s going to meet Tim’s family, the welcome from Mary, dad and his playing table tennis? Kit Kat and her having no job? Mary and her being pregnant? the game of stripping, each piece of clothing with the decision that Tim would make?
13. The wedding, the dress, the song, the wind? The enormous amount of rain? The tent and its collapse? Everybody drenched? The best man speeches, the choice of Rory and his legal joke, Tim changing it, his friend at work, to Harry, to his father?
14. Tim and Mary, the baby, happiness?
15. Kit Kat, coming to the baby’s party, her boyfriend and his violence, drinking, the accident, in hospital? Tim and his travel? Coming back and finding his baby was a boy? Asking his father for explanations? Back at the hospital, realising that Kit Kat had to fix herself?
16. At home, going out, Mary and trying all the different dresses and then choosing the first one? the baby shredding the manuscript?
17. Tim’s father, the news of his dying, the cancer? Des and his reaction? The father and his reaction, excepting his situation? The Frank talk between father and son, the undemonstrative father hugging his son?
18. The walk along the beach, the young boy with his father, happiness? His father’s secret, leading an ordinary life – still with the possibly ability of living the same day over again without changing it?
19. His father’s death? His accepting this? Especially with the new baby? Happiness with Mary and the children?