Thoughts and Analysis of “About Time” by Richard Curtis

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I was not prepared for this film to be as good as it was, and that only made the experience better.

I couldn’t help but like this film. It takes an awful lot to impress me when it comes to writing comedic films, or indeed romantic films for that matter. I’m old fashioned, I love films like Annie Hall that show the harsh reality of relationships where love is both a sword and a shield in a battlefield, so when a smaller more delicate film comes along and takes me by complete surprise, I am overjoyed.

I have always been a fan of Richard Curtis, I think he is a fantastic writer and really understands his trade, so I cannot possibly understand why I have put off his latest film, About Time, for so long. A film about a man who can travel back in time to any point of his own timeline and change things as he sees fit, it’s a different take on the usual romantic comedy structure. It felt somewhat like Ruby Sparks because it develops this idea that love is malleable and lucid and in fact can be played with, as opposed to something that is set and either works or doesn’t. It’s drawing on works such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which we see love as something that is influenced by others and is shaped instead of being something that happens naturally. But instead of being something that shaped by external factors, such as fairies, it is something shaped by the individual.

That’s why I found the film thought provoking, it sparks off so many questions in my mind and makes me happy, sad, angry and god knows what else all at the same time. There points raised in my mind that I simply have to address and so I thought I would take this opportunity to share them in my usual style.

It’s not just a film about relationships in terms of couples, it’s about fathers and sons and family connections in general- I know the film is largely based around the protagonist aiming to find love with a female and settle down with the perfect person for him, but this isn’t the only kind of relationship that is explored. The scenes in which we see the young man playing ping pong with his father and his father adding this hilarious commentary that imagines himself as an olympic player really adds to how hard the film hits me. It shows the importance of family and shows just how precious every moment with your parents is.

It develops this idea of if you could go back would you change anything? – what made this film as brilliant as it was is the transition from comedy to sincerity. It starts off with the protagonist going back and changing situations that he ends badly the first few times by embarrassing himself, before finally getting it right and that is funny. But then it moves on to show how seriously events can be changed when certain elements are altered. And that is when the sincerity kicks in, because we see suddenly see Tim actually start to question his decisions and think them over carefully based on what conclusions they will bring about. Furthermore this leads to the point of reflection in which Tim and indeed the audience start to question if they would change anything if they could go back. And that is interesting to think about. Is love really something we should experience as perfection? Is love really about getting everything right and making the best decisions? If you had the chance to go back would you change anything or relive it how it really was?

It’s fantastic that the film shows the full extent of responsibility – I was concerned that the film would delve too far into the comedic side of the spectrum and show love to be like putty in Tim’s hands, which would have been grossly inappropriate because that undermines just how serious relationships really are. It manages to show how Tim must start taking responsibility for his decisions and his trips into the past, and how he has to start using it to take care of other people and not just himself. It is a classic case of a gift becoming a curse but not in such a fatalist style.

As a science fiction nerd it is refreshing to see a new take on time travel – throughout cinematic history time travel has always been something that requires a huge clunky machine and a large power source to create a painful journey with lights and explosions, and yet this film doesn’t include that. It was refreshing to see a film feature time travel as a natural ability that people have. It is just something they can do as and when they like, with no flashy effects, just a small place and a simple thought. I just found it interesting really because it’s something I haven’t seen before. It was like seeing a large part of science fiction become house broken and domesticised. Weird.

It is a rather ugly concept to think about not letting love happen naturally – I know it has been a funny topic to explore in the past, as I previously mentioned Shakespeare proved this perfectly with A Midsummer Night’s Dream which still stands as one of the greatest pieces of comedic writings of all time, but aside from the embarrassment and subsequent laughter that follows, the concept is quite disgusting. I don’t know if I can speak for anybody else but personally I feel that with my latest relationship I am glad that things happened naturally because it made love seem real. Being able to play with love and mould it makes the whole idea of love just something that is constructed and perfected, which isn’t what love is about. It takes away the excitement factor of not knowing what’s coming next, or where you’ll be in a few months time. So as funny as the film can be when it explores this idea, it thankfully does not idealise it in any way.

Time and age are key factors in how the time travel is used – the character development of Tim is spot on as it shows a three dimensional character who learns and matures with age. The purpose of the time travel changes for him, initially starting out as a way for him to become the ideal partner to copulate with but then when he is older and in a more serious time in life his motives switch to keeping his family stable. That’s what I like about it. If this was an American comedy then Tim would continue fucking around for the rest of time and everything would work in his favour, whereas what this film shows is how Tim can’t try to be a player all of his life, he has to settle down. Eventually this game he sets out to play has more and more rules and he has to abide by them in order to achieve stability.

Would returning to an event again and again remove how special it is? – just food for thought really, because as much as I love certain memories I don’t know if I would relive them again. I think the more times you experience it the less special it becomes. I know not everyone will agree with that but it’s just a point that had me thinking after seeing Tim revisit an event several times.

The film begs the question is love really about being perfect or doing things correctly? – I know I mentioned this previously but I just wanted to touch upon it again briefly because there are numerous scenes in the film in which we see Tim experiencing events for the first time and then attempting them several more times until he feels they are perfect. This for me only shows how absurd the whole idea of it is and it shows how love has been contextual and does depend on time. It’s going to show how much of a nerd I am when I say this but there is a beautiful moment in a recent series of Doctor Who in which we see how Clara’s parents met by a leaf falling on her dad’s face and then her mum having to save him from being hit by a car whilst blinded. It was beautiful because they go in to detail about how that specific tree had to grow in the specific way so that the specific leaf could be formed to fall when that specific wind blew near it to land on the man who was walking in that specific location and that exact time etcetera until it just shows how so many different factors have to be in place, and if one of them was ever so slightly different then events may follow a different path and they would have never fallen in love. Which is a scary thought to think about how something so small could lead to a relationship never starting, but it’s also exciting to think about how a chain of events leads to people falling in love. That’s something the character of Tim does not allow himself to experience because he is too focused on trying to do the right thing.

As I have discussed in previous blog posts, I am loving the use of the f word in a 12 rated picture –  This does seem to be a recurring theme for me now with films but honestly it makes me so happy to see screenplay writers being brave enough to use the word “fuck” in a 12 rated picture because it is a risk worth taking. If you’re going to be a child like James Cameron with Titanic and waste it then it’s not the same thing, but when it is used for comical effect or is used to show the raw emotions that a character is feeling then it is worth it. It adds a shock value, which either makes us laugh or allows us to connect with the characters more because we understand their emotional state more. In the case of this film the word is used a couple of times and for different reasons but all of them justified. I really like Richard Curtis as a writer already but I think this film has made me like him even more because it shows how he is talented and takes risks that pay off.

The film isn’t just about young love, the relationship between Tim’s parents is crucial to how relatable the film is – It’s very easy to explore the young relationship that Tim experiences in which a lot of things happen and it’s a busy time, but some of the more hard hitting moments of the film take place when the relationship between Tim’s parents is focused on. These are the times in which we don’t see a new relationship, we see a partnership that has been years in the making and that has strengthened over time, with deeply pitted roots. Without wanting to spoil the plot for anyone I will say there is a line that really had me thinking in the second half of the film in which Tim’s mother is facing mental health issues that are impacting on her husband and she says “I am fucking furious, I am so uninterested in a life without your father”. This really had me thinking because on one hand it shows how love stands the test of time and brings people together for an entire lifetime, but also it challenges what Shakespeare says in Sonnet 116 (incidentally one of my favourites) about how love can withstand anything and if it is true then it does not die. Tim’s mother challenges this statement by showing how eventually her husband has become someone different, someone she didn’t fall in love with, and it’s crushing. She has spent so many years with this man and now he has become another person that she does not necessarily know, which seems negative and like it brings the mood of the film down, but honestly that is how life is. It’s upsetting because it is so realistic and does not shy away from the truth, but that is nothing short of admirable.

There is a lot more I could say about the film because it is fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it, but I think a second viewing is in order just so I can pick up on things I possibly missed the first time around. It’s always good to get a fresh perspective with an open minded revisit.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you gained something out of it, be it entertainment, thoughts, a time filler or just a reason to need read this blog again, I am grateful for your time either way. If you have any thoughts or opinions then please do not hesitate to leave a comment below, I will get back to any comments that are posted. Also if there are any questions you have about the film that you would like me to address then I will be more than happy to respond to them.

Until the next time I shall leave you with a quote from the film, which comes from the character of Tim’s sister, someone who feels that their place in this world is somewhat questionable:

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“I’m the faller, every family has a faller, someone who trips up, who doesn’t make the grade”

 

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