When Tim’s dad (Bill Nighy) explains that the men in their family have always possessed the ability to time travel, Domhnall Gleeson’s Hugh Gran-tish leading man Tim doesn’t get on the phone to NASA or notify Stephen Hawking. Why would he, when he can use his powers to pursue the girl of his dreams? Time travel aside, the template is very much the Notting Hill/Four Weddings model of adorably dorky British bachelor infatuated with quirky, independent but resolutely non-threatening American love interest.
Just as audiences who want to indulge in the simple pleasures of stuff blowing up real good will happily pile into the latest Massive Robots Movie to get their fix of artfully choreographed destructo-porn, so there are audiences looking for that simple gooey fix of upper middle class people awkwardly finding true love in a series of picturesquely bohemian locations. This is where About Time fits into the cinematic continuum, and Richard Curtis has this sort of film down to a fine art - he is to love what Roland Emmerich is to iconic landmarks shattering in slow-motion.
So long as that is indeed what you’re after, About Time should do the trick. If you need a bit of psychological depth with your wibbily wobbly timey wimey rom-coms, you’re probably better off revisiting Groundhog Day, where the time anomaly ultimately forces Phil (Bill Murray) to engage with Rita (Andie MacDowell) at a whole new level of honesty. In About Time, Tim never tells Mary what’s going on, meaning so many of their special moments together are based on countless rehearsals and retakes over which she has no control or knowledge. It’s more than a little creepy. In an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer involving broadly comparable memory-meddling, when the duped partner discovers her mind has been messed with without her consent, she angrily asks why her lover thought it was ok to “violate my mind like that?” It’s not a question About Time’s Mary ever gets to ask, which adds a weird note to the lovey-dovey proceedings.