Screenwriter and Director Richard Curtis is best known for his charming, insightful and endearing films. It is likely that you have spent many nights and holidays with his famous romantic comedies: Four weddings and a funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones Diary, love in factand Yesterday. Or, maybe you’ve seen some of his quirky comedies, like the Mister Bean series and The boat that rocked. In each of these stories, he capitalizes on traditionally romantic and comedic genres and weaves in beautiful observations of seemingly ordinary moments in life. All his projects, even by Steven Spielberg Battle horse, smoothly capture people in their most authentic moments. It makes the dull seem authentic and the mundane feel unique. Curtis loves life, but not just the practicalities.
About timeThe sentimental scenes of honor life’s idiosyncrasies and ask us to reflect on how we process time. There is nothing more wonderful than a normal day. But what is a normal day for you? The first sip of therapeutic coffee (or tea)? Being trapped in endless traffic? An ungrateful boss and tedious work? Perhaps a disinterested and preoccupied partner at dinner? For some, these moments may very well reflect a normal day, but About time asks us an important question: Were you really looking at?
Curtis continues his delightful approach by incorporating appreciation for ordinary moments through the vehicle of romantic comedy with 2013’s About time. A film expertly populated with relatable characters, all portrayed by an equally relatable ensemble cast. In his quest for love over time, the endearing and witty Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) develops a beautiful relationship with Marie (Rachel McAdams). Soon they marry and start a family, allowing the bigger thesis on time to unfold. Apart from their romance, it is the relationship between a father and his son. Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) is a guide to his inherited time-traveling abilities, but his father leaves him with much more than that superpower: perspective.
Generational trauma is a common guideline in stories featuring fathers passing down traits to their children. However, it is rare for fathers to convey emotional lessons, as father figures are often written with fantastical, even toxic arcs. Many stories, old and new, revolve around a father who sacrifices himself for his family. These stories can sometimes endorse family patriarchies that are complicit in a father’s savior complex. Even well-meaning movies like Ransom, The Patriot, TakenWhere Interstellar, all of which focus on fathers who save their families from senseless danger. Highlighting fathers through these false narratives can convey unhealthy narratives to children who are already under the pressure of toxic constructs, especially boys. While rare paternal stories, such as Boyz in the hood, The world of NemoWhere Pursuit of happiness, all focus on fathers who motivate their children without needing to be the archetypal hero in the end. Healthy dad films encourage openness and perspective, and About time is in this exclusive level.
Curtis supports the success of About time and his rare father figure can be attributed to Bill Nighy’s incredibly nuanced performance. Viewers can visualize their own father in Nighy’s accessible persona. Curtis recounts how Nighy, one of the most idiosyncratic actors working today, influenced the film’s sweet disposition in an interview with Vulture: “[Nighy] wanted to do as little as possible so that it somehow left space for everyone to imagine their father in the role. And I think I always wanted it to be a very modest performance, because I think there was a way it could go very wrong, you know? Him being an English eccentric with a twirling mustache who locks his son in his office and tells him the great mystery. I’ve always wanted it to be the sweetest thing.
On the morning of Tim’s 21st birthday, you are introduced to Nighy’s puppet performance in his cluttered office and immediately fall in love. His tone is kind, the dialogue is honest, and his intentions are sincere. All these qualities are expressed by saying the most improbable sentence of Tim’s life: “Prepare for a scary time. But there’s this family secret – and the secret is… that the men in the family can – time travel. Curtis’ obsession with perspective and deep reflection on the role fathers can have in the lives of their sons is exemplified by his writing choice to limit their ability, as they can only time travel and not in the future. The metaphor corrects a common paternal archetype of force over reflection. Instead of dwelling on the past or rushing into the future, Tim’s father wants him to wisely examine his past to positively impact his present and future.
A father-son conversation after Tim experiences his first time-jumping moment neatly encompasses the film’s guiding line. Tim was given a kind of inheritance, a genetic power to time travel, but also, metaphorically, an emotional gift of perspective. Tim’s father establishes in just a few sentences that fame and wealth can take away conviction and leave you empty, or worse, lonely. He quickly diverts Tim’s materialistic aspirations to something more timeless, like love. But, more importantly, it’s a time when Tim’s father lets his son become independent, so he can succeed or fail on his own. Tim begins his quest for a girlfriend, who after a few stints with Charlotte (yes, that’s Margot Robbie), he realizes that he doesn’t easily connect with her. So while we assume Tim is looking for love, his attraction to Charlotte is more superficial, implying that he continues to grow. Tim’s awareness and perspective gained through his infatuation with Charlotte led him to find a more holistic sentimental connection with Mary. A conversation with his father about the cost of abusing his powers for material and superficial desires, subtly sets up the whole philosophy of romance and the larger theme of the film, to appreciate the time spent with those you love. , revealed at the end.
A painful third act begins as Tim discovers his father is dying of cancer. They have a dark conversation that is steeped in the greatest lesson a parent can pass on to their child: perspective. A two-part lesson that focuses on how Tim should live his ordinary day-to-day life, just like anyone else. But then, going back in time and starting over every day of your life, without the anguish of your first attempt. His father thought it would help him appreciate the extraordinary parts of his life. A wonderful lesson for the public, to help us achieve a less cynical and enlightened perspective on our own lives. Tim finds he’s losing his dad for good and won’t be able to visit him with his time travel abilities or he’d lose his own kids with Mary (the time travel mechanic falls through here, but the metaphor is still alive). His father dies and the final lesson becomes the heart of the story, as even on his deathbed he wants to impart peace to his son.
The truest essence of Richard Curtis is delivered through beautiful, educational narration from Tim about how we all travel through time together, so why not make the most of it? About time subverts toxic masculine tropes where a father infects his children with his own trauma, instead Tim embraces his father’s best qualities. A journey between father and son ends with the timeless advice of an evolved Tim (insert Il Mondo by Jimmy Fontana): “And at the end, I think I’ve learned the last lesson of my time travels; and I even took a step further than my father. The truth is that I’m not coming back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live each day like I’m deliberately returning to that day, enjoying it, like it’s the last day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.