This Is the Best “Rachel McAdams Loves a Time-Traveler” Movie

Movies


The Big Picture

  • About Time uses time travel to tell a profound story of self-improvement.
  • The film examines the challenge of making the right decisions, even with the ability to reverse consequences.
  • Rachel McAdams shines in her role, showcasing her evolution as a performer in a heartwarming and funny love story.


Time travel is an inherently challenging concept to convey in any medium, as it’s hard for a story to establish a firm set of rules that are logically satisfying. While time travel itself is an interesting concept, it can often be used as a crutch to tie together unrelated plot points or make a radical shift in setting. Rachel McAdams oddly has more experience with time travel than most performers of her generation, as she appeared in time-bending projects like The Time Traveler’s Wife, Midnight in Paris, and Doctor Strange. However, the 2013 science fiction romance About Time uses time travel to tell a profound story of self-improvement and serves as McAdams’ best entry into the genre.

About Time

At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think.

Release Date
September 4, 2013

Director
Richard Curtis

Runtime
123

Main Genre
Comedy


What Is ‘About Time’ About?

About Time follows the young bachelor Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson), who lives in Cornwall, England with his sister Katherine (Lydia Wilson), his mother Mary (Lindsay Duncan), and his father James (Bill Nighy). As Tim prepares to move forward on a path of independence, his father takes him aside to reveal to him a secret: he has the power to travel back in time and relive key memories. The context of time travel as a family secret makes About Time a more interesting spin on the concept, as the stakes are entirely personal. Rather than using time travel as the inciting incident of a conflict, About Time examines the idea of different lived experiences. The tension of the story revolves entirely around whether Tim will be able to find his “perfect” life somewhere within the multitude of possibilities that he has at his disposal.

Tim is a great protagonist because he immediately takes his father’s words to heart; instead of using time travel to amass fame or fortune, he decides to use his unique gift to become the best version of himself possible. About Time examines how challenging it can be to make the right decisions, even if the consequences can be reversed. Tim approaches happiness like a puzzle that he needs to solve instead of simply enjoying the moments he has at his disposal. While Gleeson’s performance is quite captivating, the film shows that Tim has not yet given himself the freedom to live out each of his potential paths to their fullest potential. He’s been so hyper-focused on “getting it right” that he’s ignored the possibilities that mistakes may lead him to.

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“I will show you the most important thing that any living organism has ever witnessed.”

While filmmaker Richard Curtis has been criticized for the schmaltzy tone he brought to films like Love Actually and Notting Hill, About Time is as genuinely funny as it is sincere. The film’s portrayal of relationships, family disagreements, and the existentialism of youth feel so authentic that it’s easy to forget that the story is grounded in science fiction. In this sense, About Time examines how an “ordinary” person like Tim can lead an extraordinary life. While he doesn’t use his gift to make great travels or make significant breakthroughs, the gift of time allows him to celebrate the things that are in front of him. It’s quite profound to see how even the most seemingly inessential moments in his life become cherished memories that he can relive.

Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams Have Great Chemistry in ‘About Time’

While Tim uses his abilities to test out different possibilities within his future, he finds what he was searching for when he meets the American immigrant Mary (Rachel McAdams). McAdams inserts a burst of charismatic energy that transforms About Time from a quirky comedy into an endearing love story. It immediately becomes clear to Tim that he doesn’t need time travel to know that Mary is “the one.” This makes for an effective change in his motivation for the rest of the film; instead of searching for the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with, Tim wants to protect the precious moments that he has with Mary. Unlike other romantic comedies, About Time shows that happiness isn’t directly tied to memory; even though Mary won’t remember the alternative routes that their relationship could have gone, Tim thinks that making her happy is fulfilling in its own right.

McAdams is given one of her most challenging roles, as Mary lacks any knowledge of Tim’s powers for much of the story. While Tim can go into each interaction with preordained foresight into how she may react, Mary essentially returns to the status quo every time that their relationship is reset. McAdams’ performance is perfect because she retains the same sensitive, empathetic nature within each divergent timeline. While Tim may say the wrong thing or screw up a big moment at some points, she gives him the same love and forgiveness. Seeing the consistency of integrity Mary has within different versions of reality enforces why Tim is so desperate to give her the life that she deserves.

Why ‘About Time’ Is the Best of Rachel McAdams’ Time Travel Movies

About Time is the perfect use of Rachel McAdams, as it allows her to showcase an earnest, realistic character who just so happens to be thrust in a science fiction scenario. Comparatively, McAdams’ other time-travel roles failed to live up to these expectations. The Time Traveler’s Wife grounded her in a dull melodrama, Doctor Strange did not involve her directly in the story’s climax, and Midnight in Paris saw her cast against type as an aggressive, nasty character. The brilliance of About Time is that it’s a story about human relationships first, and a time travel adventure second.

About Time highlights McAdams’ evolution as a performer, as she has certainly appeared in many different subgenres of comedy. While she earned her breakout role as Regina George in Mean Girls, McAdams has gone on to play more mature comedic leads in films like Game Night and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga that put a greater emphasis on their romantic elements. About Time embodies this shift in her career, as it’s the type of heartwarming story that can evoke both laughter and tears from its audience.

About Time is available to rent on Prime Video in the U.S.

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