A funny thing happened on the way to romance in "About Time." A sweet father-son story also broke out, courtesy of characters played by Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson.
Shortly after the movie opens, Tim's dad shares a sensational secret with his son: The men in their family can travel back in time once they reach age 21. Yes, really, and they don't require a hot tub time machine or 6,000-pound marvel with spinning discs, as in "The Time Machine."
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy.
Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
No, Tim need only go into a small, dark place -- a closet or wardrobe will do just fine -- clench his fists and think about the instant he wants to revisit. Voila! He will get a mulligan and the ability to stop himself from blurting out something inappropriate or tripping awkwardly or making a mistake big or small.
Tim (Mr. Gleeson), who describes himself as "too tall, too skinny and too orange" in hair color, would love to use this magical ability to get a girlfriend, and he does, after some false starts and stops. She is Mary (Rachel McAdams), an American reader for a publisher, living and working in London where Tim is a barrister.
Tim tweaks all sort of relationship events before asking if he can -- or should -- fix the life of someone else, and he discovers some scary ramifications of his time-traveling talents. He also is reminded that time is finite, that happiness can come in appreciating small interactions and moments, and that you may not need time travel to make the most of life.
"About Time" is from writer-director Richard Curtis who also directed "Love Actually" and "Pirate Radio" and whose long list of writing credits include "The Tall Guy," "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill" and "Love Actually."
Mr. Curtis has a flair for movies with bumbling charmers yearning for love -- here it's Mr. Gleeson, rather than dreamy Hugh Grant who aged out of these roles -- siblings who realistically move in and out of each others' lives and characters who fit together like a Rubik's cube.
This is a much smaller, more intimate story than the sprawling "Love Actually" and it's not as funny or winning across the board. Tim's sister, Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), is so quirky and exaggerated at the start that she appears mentally unbalanced although she settles down.
Still, its love affair rings true and its father-son scenes are tender and touching. Mr. Gleeson, who may look familiar from his turn as Bill Weasley in two Harry Potter movies, rises to the occasion of carrying the movie and Ms. McAdams is so practiced at these roles that she makes it seem effortless.
The supporting cast includes Lindsay Duncan as Tim's mother, Tom Hollander as a playwright and an uncredited Richard Griffiths, who died in March, as an actor in one of his productions.
Contrary to the song lyrics, time is not always on our side but "About Time" is.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.