Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander
Written by: Richard Curtis
Running Time: 123 mins
Release date: 4th September 2013
Richard Curtis, what are you doing? The man who gave us the hilarious and touching Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill is back with another romantic comedy drama after the less than successful The Boat That Rocked. Well now he has topped that one with a film that is both aimless and rambling.
Tim is 21 years old and his father has something to tell him. The men in the family have the ability to travel back in time if they go to a dark place and close their eyes and make fists. This comes in very handy for Tim as he makes mistakes that he can put right. Heading into London to become a lawyer and staying with the temperamental and grumpy writer, Harry, he meets Mary, an American girl who he immediately falls in love with but misses his chance with her when he travels back in time to save Harry’s play.
Once he finds her again, he is determined not to lose her and with the help of his new found talents, he wins her over and a romance blossoms. The path of true love starts running smoothly but his family brings new problems that only he can sort out, not knowing that once he has a child, he loses the ability to go back beyond the point of their birth without it affecting the outcome.
I really wanted to like this film. I like Curtis as a writer and his work on Comic Relief is unsurpassed. This, however, is desperate and I feel guilty for saying that. Coming on like an ambling variation of Groundhog Day, he has some nice ideas in the first half, with some clever lines and a few decent comic moments but runs out of steam badly and then false sentimentality is the order of the day. An incredibly contrived plot arc is thrown on us to evoke an emotional response. The only response from me was “really?”
It doesn’t help that the world in which we are meant to believe this time travelling character lives is the typical upper/middle class wealth where everyone speaks with clipped vowel sounds and eat in expensive and pretentious restaurants or play croquet on the lawn of their fabulously large house in Cornwall. Tim’s family being eccentric with a cousin who is obviously suffering from hyper activeness and an Uncle, who can’t remember anything, could it or could it not be Alzheimer’s disease?
Brendan Gleeson’s son, Domhnall, replaces Hugh Grant in the lead, which means we get a taller, younger, ginger-haired version but the same slightly bumbling buffoon. He is perfectly fine and his relationship with Mary, played by Rachel McAdams, is sweet enough but rather unremarkable. Lindsay Duncan, a fine actress in my books, seems wasted as Tim’s mother while Bill Nighy, as Tim’s father, is…well Bill Nighy and although he’s always good value, it’s nothing new.
Which leaves Tom Hollander to inject some life into the film as the playwright Harry. Whenever he appears, the film suddenly becomes interesting but he’s not on screen long enough. By far the most interesting and entertaining character in the whole film.
There is also a brief cameo appearance from the late, great Richard Griffiths which makes you smile and as I said at the begins, it does have some nice moments but on a whole this is Curtis’ weakest film to date. It is far too long and could have had 30 minutes shaved off it and it just doesn’t go anywhere.
I am a big supporter of British film and I know this will do well in the box office just because of who is behind it but I really wanted another Four Weddings or Notting Hill. Instead I got a damp squid of a film that disappointed.
(A note of warning. The BBFC have given this film a 12A certificate but the contents and the language is definitely not for younger ears and eyes and I am surprised that it has got away with such a low classification. I’m not a prude but I was shocked.)