Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Time travel

Why About Time Belongs in the Time Travel/Romance Hall of Fame

Director Richard Curtis knows how to rom-com, but About Time proved he could time warp too.

By Tara Bennett
Mary (Rachel McAdams) and Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) smile at a woman in About Time (2013).

When you think about it, the time travel romance movie sub genre is pretty stacked with all-time classics. Yes, when done wrong they can be cloying and beyond confusing. But when the right alchemy of carefully considered paradox plotting and character chemistry is achieved, magic can happen. From Somewhere In Time to 13 Going on 30, there are plenty to choose from. But one of the best in recent years is Richard Curtis' About Time

Now streaming on Peacock, About Time stars a young \ Domhnall Gleeson as Tim Lake, an average British barrister. Growing up in Cornwall, early 20's Tim finds his whole existence shaken when his father (Bill Nighy) casually drops that all the men in their family can time travel. It's an incredible power to consider and possess, and Curtis affords Tim the opportunity to explore his gift in the most immature ways until he comes to appreciate its stakes and the wisdom that comes with it. 

RELATED: Scientists Confirm Time Moved More Slowly in the Early Universe

While About Time was a box office success, it doesn't get the attention that the more hook-driven examples in this sub genre. But the work of Gleeson, Rachel McAdams as his great love Mary, and the supporting cast of Nighy, Lydia Wilson and Margot Robbie achieves a realness that supersedes the magic powers of it all, and gets to the heart of what it means to appreciate the time we've been given.

Why We Love About Time

Mary (Rachel McAdams) and Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) approach a kiss on a sidewalk Iin About Time (2013).

As an unapologetic appreciator of a great romance story, when it comes to getting it right in film or TV, I continually bang the drum for chemistry! If your couple exudes the warmth of two blocks of wood mashing together, you've failed the piece right in the casting phase. About Time excels in its category because Curtis knows how to cast for chemistry. He's the king of romantic movies couples from Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) to Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), but he also knows how to craft a supporting ensemble which makes his little movie worlds feel relatable.

In About Time, Gleeson and McAdams absolutely sparkle when they're in the frame together and also convey the passage of time within a long-term relationship with fidelity and realism. They're charming, awkward, surly at times and impatient with one another. The truth that lays at the heart of the film is all about how we take for granted love when it grabs us and holds on way past the initial fascination and lust. As a pair, we take that journey with them and let Tim's mistakes and apathy at times be our reminder of what is important. 

Time Travel as a Means to an Emotional End

Another thing that distinguishes Curtis' screenplay to About Time is that he approaches the sci-fi gift of time travel as a means to an end through which Tim will explore being present in his life as he samples countless "what if's". The flaw of other not-so-great time travel romances is that the time travel contrivance and how it impacts the time traveler becomes the primary importance. So, paradoxes and returning to proper timelines swallow up everything in the film.

RELATED: We Might Go Back to the Future with the World's First Negative Leap Second

What Curtis does here is treat the time travel ability in such a grounded way that it's almost like a folk tale in the lives of the Lake men. There's no cool conduit to slip through time, or showy special effect to note when it happens. When the power information is shared, its in the most low-fi place in the Lake home. And when Tim uses the power, he just slips through closet doors which allows us to pay attention to the outcome of when he revisits particular times in his life. 

"We're all traveling through time together..."

While Curtis includes plenty of funny and silly moments for Tim to try and wrangle time to his will, especially when it comes to his love life, those moments aren't the whole film. They're used so we get to know Tim and Mary as whole people. And then, the real trick Curtis pulls off is letting us witness Tim take the power and people in his life for granted. When it's not a shiny thing, Tim treats it like most of us would, without care and proper consequence. But some major time related messes humbles Tim and makes it clear what's at stake. In the end, all of what Tim gets to experience and learn is to just be grateful for the now. It's a time travel story and life lesson that applies to us all, with or without the power. 

Watch About Time and other sci-fi films now on Peacock!

Read more about: