Those of us who are partial to "Curtisland" have had to wait ten years for the next instalment -' "Love Actually" (2003) was the last film in the genre. Curtisland is that corner of Middle England inhabited (mostly) by twenty-something upper-middle class people who live somewhat unreal lives mostly as a member of a group of bright (mostly) attractive (usually) louche (sometimes) and funny (consciously or unconsciously) friends. It first appeared in the 1994 hit film "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and again in "Notting Hill" (1999) and "Love Actually". It also featured strongly in "Bridget Jones Diary" (2001) and its successor Bridget Jones -' The Edge of Reason (2004).
The films of Curtisland are entertainment and often make us laugh out loud -' at least the first three did. The main accusation thrown at Curtis is that the films are sentimental. Sentimentality is a pretty subjective concept. The American author Mitch Albom said "Critics have a problem with sentimentality. Readers do not. I write for readers." I don't know whether Richard Curtis would agree with this but I suspect that he might! And with Graham Greene who said that "Sentimentality -' that's what we call the sentiment we don't share."
Which brings me to "About Time". Yes it is an extremely sentimental film but the RomCom bit is actually fairly unsentimental and rather good. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), a ginger-headed Brit, falls for Mary (Rachel McAdams), a seriously pretty American who falls for him. They get it together and get married and have babies. That to do this Tim has to use a facility to travel back in time (he gets in a dark cupboard and clenches his fists to do this) to earlier moments in his own life is endearing and allows for some amusingly restructured moments. Not least when he travels back to rescue Mary from a jerk of a boyfriend by ensuring that they don't even meet! The meeting, falling in love, marriage and baby-making of Tim and Mary happens fairly quickly -' in a two hour film it occupies most of the first half hour and not much more. The film is a paean to parenthood. There are two equally sentimental aspects to this. The first is the relationship between Tim and his father (Bill Nighy). The second is the baby-making and delights of parenting that Tim and Mary share. Nighy, as ever, plays himself very well. He's the sort of father who doesn't effuse with touchy-feelyness. But gradually as the film progresses and as he brushes, losingly, with mortality he feels the need to tell his son he loves him (etc. etc.). Poor old Mum (nicely played by an under-used Lindsay Duncan) doesn't get much of a look in.
But what of the parenting of Tim and Mary? This takes up a lot of screen time. Here they really do run the gamut of emotions from A to B. I cannot recall a film I've seen with so much gratuitous baby business in them. Now I must reveal a bias here. Baby stuff is a sentiment I certainly don't share. No doubt others in the packed cinemas that are watching "About Time" around the world will not agree with me and Curtis is being very clever in giving this sentiment a free run. If we combine the FatherSon story and the Baby-making story together under the general "paean to parenthood theme" this is, as I say, what most of the film is about. And if that's your thing you'll no doubt love it. I rather sank in my seat as it went on.
Far better for me was the theme illustrated by some time travel moments of living as fully as possible every day. Tim sums it up: "I try to live every day as if it were the final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life," There is one excellent sequence when Tim goes through a day without laughing or smiling much. Too busy to notice as individuals the people around him. Then he decides to reprise the day with time travel and this time he makes an effort to relate.
Surrounding the main characters in Curtisland there are always secondary characters who bumble through the film -' often making one major comic turn along the way. In "About Time" there is Tim's batty sister (as in Notting Hill) Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) who is rather more than batty actually and nearly dies as a result of a drunken car crash at one point. She is rescued by Tim and Mary because she is lovable really and just needs a good man, rather than a rat, to save her. The good man is another member of the Ginger Tribe (Tim is Ginger) Jay (Will Merrick) and in the end they have settled down together and they have a baby. No surprise there then! Then there is the role usually played by Rowan Atkinson of the strange eccentric. Tom Hollander got the part of the foul-mouthed boozy playwright Harry. I thought that this was a very funny portrayal -' a man so unpleasant you feel he must have graduated with a PhD in nastiness.
This is a two-hour film and is I would suggest at least half-an-hour too long. The story of the accident to Kit Kat just goes on and on -' that's the trouble with time travel life tends to repeat itself. There are also some plot inconsistencies and tricks which make little sense. Would I recommend it -' perhaps not if you aren't into babies and slushy fatherson scenes. On the other hand Rachel McAdams is absolutely lovely as well as being a very good actor.
If you think that you might "share the sentiment" then go along to "About Time". If you think that you might not - but you go anyway -' you might need to shut your eyes a bit at times!
Review by Paddy-49 from the Internet Movie Database.