Top positive review
209 people found this helpful
on 7 October 2013
(Based on a cinema viewing of the film)
So:- It's Richard Curtis: let's go through the checklist:
-The main protagonist will be a romantically inept posh British boy whose seemingly work-shy bohemian family are nonetheless inexplicably well off.
-The ultimate object of his affections will be a lovely American girl whose best friend / guardian is a rather hard and slightly trampy British girl.
-There will be a wider array of eccentric (borderline bonkers) characters.
-There will be more swearing than is ever necessary.
-All boxes ticked.
Can I be honest? I thought Four Weddings and Love Actually were just agreeable, not great, and I've always been irritated by how, in British films and Richard Curtis films in particular, swearing supposedly equals funny - so my expectations were not very high when we settled down in our seats about five minutes before the film started in the cinema - and then a group of mid to late teens trooped in and sat down in the seats in front of us, and I instinctively (and very unreasonably) assumed that this was not the sort of film which would suit them and that they would get bored and start fiddling with their mobile phones all the way through the film.
Well, I could not have been more wrong. Until the end credits rolled and the final notes of the end title music washed over us, we, they, and everyone else sat with attention riveted to the screen.
Before you continue reading, be aware that what follows contains a brief sketch of the film's premise and outlines the story set-up (but not the middle or the ending) for those who know absolutely nothing about it, but would like to know a little about it before choosing to buy it or see it.
If you don't want to know anything about it at all, stop reading now.
If you saw the trailer, you might think you have the drift of it already - as he nears adulthood, the hero (Tim) learns from Dad that all on the male side of the family can time travel back to an event within their own lifetime and take a different path to the one they originally pursued. On learning this, Tim's first thought is to undo what was, for him, an untypical act of minor cruelty committed at the New Years Eve party.
Eventually, out on a rather unusual blind date and entirely without the use of his Talent, he meets up with his soulmate, Mary, the aforementioned American... and then accidentally erases their sublimely perfect first meeting from history while using his Talent to help out an undeserving family friend (a perpetually angry, misanthropic playwright played with acidic relish by Tom Hollander). And so Tim has to try to re-boot his relationship with a girl who doesn't know she ever fell in love with him, and may never do so again.
All this is fairly standard time-travel romance stuff, and by now you'd be thinking the story was about four-fifths of the way through with just one or two more misunderstandings and time travelling fixes to sort it all out - but this film has a lot more depth to it than that, and is by turns unsettling, bittersweet, funny, poignant and at times extremely moving as Tim finds he has to make some excruciating decisions about life-changing events which will hurt one person if he interferes and another if he doesn't (if you have seen the film, you will know I am being necessarily vague here).
Tim is played affably and sensitively by Domhnall Gleeson, likeable in every scene - Mary is the lovely Rachel McAdams who, in all honesty, doesn't have to do much in this film except be her perfect self. Also featured is the undisputed master of just being himself, Bill Nighy as Tim's dad, and although the development of the relationship and the chemistry between Tim and Mary is very sweet and enjoyable to watch, it is actually almost eclipsed by the fantastic relationship Tim has with his father. Also in the mix are forgetful (but harmless) live-in Uncle Desmond (Richard Cordery), Tim's pretty, semi-feral feline sister 'Kit-Kat' (Lydia Wilson) and their sensible, 'sturdy', and still rather beautiful Mum (Lindsay Duncan). The performances of all of the players in these and other minor parts are excellent, with Lydia Wilson a stand-out (for me, anyway) as Kit-Kat.
We talked about this film all the way home, for a while before and after we went to bed, and then some more in the morning, and then some more when we went out for a drive the following day. For us, this was undoubtedly the best work that Richard Curtis has ever done. I subsequently had a look around on review sites and was very surprised to find that critical (ie, website, newspaper, media) reaction to the film had been very mixed and generally lukewarm, and perhaps that uncertain balance will also eventually be reflected in the reviews here as time goes by, but I honestly can not understand, personally, why anyone would not like this film.
Some people will argue that the time travelling aspects of the film are full of holes, that the 'rules' are stated and then subsequently ripped up several times over, but to agonise over all that is to miss the point - the time travelling aspect is just a device to power the main thrust of the film, which is to try to make you examine the way you live your own life, and perhaps to try harder to get things right the first time and consider the possible consequences of your actions for others. This is nothing which hasn't been done before, but it is handled here with a light, deft, sweet touch, and this film is an absolute pleasure to watch.