Year of Release: 2013 Directed by Richard Curtis. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, and Lydia Wilson.
I’m probably as far removed from the target audience for this film as possible, but considering that I did not hate it, I expect that people who enjoy romantic comedies (which I generally don’t unless they’re pre-1960 or written by Woody Allen) will like this quite a bit.
The premise has a twist that makes the concept of the film much more interesting than a standard romantic comedy. Unfortunately, it fails to do anything profound or fascinating with that twist. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) as well as all the men in his family can travel through time. They can only travel to events in their own lives, but doing so enables them to relive and fix any events that did not play out as they had hoped. Tim decides that the best use of this power is to win the heart of the perfect girl, whoever she is.
All the actors are fairly likeable and give decent performances, but too many of the characters are completely unbelievable. I found it very hard to believe that Mary (Rachel McAdams) would be perfectly willing to sleep with the rather creepy guy she just met an hour ago at her friend’s party. And that brings me to my biggest problem with the film. Tim was so manipulative that I found to be a perfect example of the German noun Backpfeifengesicht (face badly in need of a fist). His actions only come across as alienating and irritating. Way too many of his attempts at “fixing” relationships were downright creepy and unethical.
To be fair, the film touches on the dangerous consequences of Tim’s time travel, but the solution that prevents him from irrevocably altering his life is way too easily attainable. And after he breaks a rule of time travel and drastically alters his life, he is able to undo it by time traveling through the same now altered reality, and the original reality somehow restores itself. Although the film tacks on some voiceovers about the importance of living in the present and appreciating each moment, there is nothing depicted in the film that suggests Tim actually learned that, other than he saying he did. Finally, the penultimate scene, which was intended as a sweet nostalgic tissue moment, fails completely, because according the previously established rules, it would mean that Tim is endangering his entire family for one fleeting thrill of happiness.
The other major problem was that there is no real sense of conflict or empathy for Tim. Any cringe inducing socially awkward scenario that he gets himself into, can instantly be undone by traveling back in time. Even disastrous consequences of overused time travel are fixed by re-time traveling. As a result, it becomes very hard to have any concern for him.
I am aware that I’m over-thinking and over-analyzing this film, and maybe that’s my problem. I don’t want to be too harsh on a film that intends to be a sweet romance about appreciating the present moment. But despite the likeable cast, I could not get past the glaring holes in the premise or the inherently unethical behavior of Tim that goes on far too long without any consequences.
I did very much enjoy seeing Richard Griffiths again in his brief cameo, as well as some of the cute romantic scenes between McAdams and Gleeson.
Content Advisory: Several sexual encounters with partial nudity, some sexual references, occasional vulgar language, and a serious accident. MPAA rating: R
Suggested Audience: Adults
Overall Recommendation: C-