About Time is billed as Richard Curtis’s first romantic comedy since Love Actually. This build up, along with the posters of Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson hugging and laughing on the side of all the buses in London and the trailers showing the tribulations of a relationship all back up this point. Based on this evidence, it’s fair to say that we have been completely lied to by the marketing department at Working Title. I’m not angry in the slightest though as what Curtis has delivered is something much more affecting, much more touching and something much smarter.

Shortly after his 21st birthday, Tim (Gleeson) is informed by his dad, the constantly scene stealing and ever loveable Bill Nighy, that the men in their family have the ability to travel in time. They can only travel backwards and only within their own lifetimes though so no ‘killing Hitler or shagging Helen of Troy’. After being disuaded from using the trick to get rich Tim quickly decides that this new ability is going to help him get a girlfriend. So off he packs to London to move in with a drunk play write whilst bumbling around the city from one awkward interaction to the next until happiness blossoms with the very cute Mary (McAdams). So far, so Richard Curtis.

This is where About Time dramatically shifts gear though. Once the initial awkwardness between Gleeson and McAdams disappears we start to move into a completely new area, one more touching and more unexpected than anything Curtis has done since Blackadder went over the top at the end of Blackadder goes Forth. About Time suddenly starts to look at the relationship between a father and son.

We all know that Richard Curtis can write relationship tales. Anything he released in the 90s springs to mind but he of course also adapted the boy and his horse story Warhorse for Spielberg recently. About Time feels different to all of this though. For once, this is a filmmaker not as concerned with declarations of love and grand gestures to make a point; nobody questions whether it’s raining here. Instead, the grandest gesture and the most touching moment of the film occurs on a beach as father and son steal a lost moment together and relive something as simple as skimming stones.

Curtis’s films can always be looked at, I believe, as romantic comedies for men. As much as they are possibly aimed at female audiences by marketing departments his films are more often then not ‘male fantasy’. Notting Hill, 4 Weddings, About a Boy; they all follow men who, whilst bumbling and apparently cute, would never meet the women they meet behaving how they do. However, About Time plays with that male fantasy idea in a different way with the bond between father and son dramatically taking over from the relationship between boyfriend and girlfriend. As such, more than any of his other films, this is I believe a film that ‘men’ can enjoy and not have to lie about enjoying it to their friends. This isn’t the sappy romantic comedy you thought it was going to be, it’s much much more than that. I can happily say I was either in tears or close to tears for the last half hour and expect I won’t be alone in that fact.

I like Richard Curtis films, they’re silly and they show a side of Britain which only exists within his films. They are however usually completely predictable. About Time though is a film which genuinely surprised me. The tonal shift half way through was utterly unexpected and I adored it for that. Those who dislike Curtis usually probably won’t find anything here to particularly change their minds but I don’t think that’s a problem at all. Fans of Curtis will get something I don’t think they were expecting which, for a supposed romantic comedy, really deserves to be applauded.

Reece Lipman is a freelance filmmaker and writer who specialises in low budget short films and music videos under the banner of Shimmer-Man Productions. Reece has also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival and has a dangerously nerdy fascination with pop culture. He can often be found trying to convince people why Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who are the greatest things that have ever existed and wakes up most mornings wishing that he was Joss Whedon or Edgar Wright. You can read more from Reece on his website or you can follow him on Twitter (@ReeceLipman).

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