The Film Formula: About Time

The Film Formula: About Time

We analyse the familiar elements in Richard Curtis' time travel romcom

The Film Formula is our new series aimed at boiling down big releases to their most basic elements. This time round, it’s About Time

Richard Curtis has made a career writing Richard Curtis Films, so it's no surprise to see About Time sharing some genetic material with the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Bumbling Englishman (Domhnall Gleeson) falling for free-spirited American (Rachel McAdams)? Check. Eccentric relatives? Check. Romantic downpour? Check. Cast populated entirely by upper-middle-class people with an absence of real problems in their lives? That's a big check.

McAdams has actually built up quite the career as a time travel accessory – that's her in Midnight in Paris, playing the bitchy fiancee who lives in the present while Owen Wilson's past-romanticising novelist flits through a 1920s version of the French capital with some of the decade's most notable faces. Like About Time, Midnight in Paris adopts an intentionally vague approach to time travel – while Gleeson clenches his fists in a darkened cupboard to traverse time, Wilson simply waits on a specific street corner for a mysterious car to appear on the stroke of midnight.

McAdams also pops up in 2009 book adap The Time Traveller's Wife, in which she plays the title role. That movie also shares some time travel specifics with About TimeEric Bana, the time traveller in question, has inherited his time-hopping abilities genetically, much as Gleeson does from his dad (Bill Nighy, another Curtis staple) in About Time.

Gleeson himself is no stranger to a bit of sci-fi romance either – immediately prior to About Time, he cropped up in Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, in which he mainly played an artificial recreation of Hayley Atwell's dead partner. He's similarly lovable in both, although admittedly his Brooker-scripted role did have a more interesting sinister edge.

Four Weddings and a Funeral x (Midnight in Paris + The Time Traveller's Wife)
+ (Black Mirror - Charlie Brooker) = About Time

About Time - Trailer

About Time

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 2h 3min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Richard Curtis
  • Written by: Richard Curtis
  • Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie
  • UK release: 4 September 2013

An out-and-out romance with equal helpings of comedy and drama, it follows Tim (an eminently likeable Gleeson), who learns from his dad (Nighy) that he’s capable of time travel. Armed with this new skill, Tim embarks upon a quest for love – and believes he’s found it when he encounters Mary (McAdams).