There are two things to note when watching sci-fi-meets-rom-com About Time. One: it's not your typical science fiction film. Two: it isn't just a romantic comedy.
Richard Curtis’ latest work finds us falling for Domhnall Gleeson's character Tim. He's a likable, yet slightly awkward bloke who, on his 21st birthday, finds out that the men in his family have the novel ability to travel back in time. They cannot rewrite history, per se, but they can change what has happened in their own pasts and, consequently, their present. Like the young, lovelorn being that he is, Tim uses his newfound gift to find the perfect girl (played by frequent Curtis collaborator Rachel McAdams).
As the film unravels in a sequence of hilarious, and later, touching events, it becomes apparent that Curtis’ objective wasn't to dazzle the audience with digital effects (“When you watch the film, you stop remembering it's sort of time travel quite soon,” said Curtis), or follow a predictable tale of happily ever after. Instead, we're drawn in to Tim's family, including an uncle with a conspicuous case of dementia, a sister whose life is sadly unraveling, and the life-altering occurrence that will shake them all to the core.
GLAM had the chance to speak with Curtis, Gleeson, and the latter's on-screen father Bill Nighy about the film's underlying message and what they would do if time travel was at their fingertips.
If you could go back to one moment in time, what would it be?
Curtis: I've only told Bill about this today, but when we did Love Actually together, I had two guys I wanted to play the part of the rock star, and I couldn't decide. So, I said to the casting lady, “Can you get in just some guy who can read the part, and then after that, I'll make up my mind who can play the role in the actual film?” The guy she brought in was Bill, and I remember he just did it so perfectly that it was like the most relaxing moment of my career because I knew I didn't have to audition and the movie was going to have some jokes in it. So, I [would] go back to that lovely warm feeling that went through me as I realized the film would at least have five jokes in it and Bill was going be responsible for all of them.
Nighy: I want to go back to the Apollo Theater in 1962, and sit in the front row, and watch James Brown and his Famous Flames, but if I do that, I get another daughter. So, I can't do that (laughs). It would be like the film. I would go back to certain moments with my daughter growing up. Those moments were usually around bedtime when they become incredibly attractive and charming, [doing] anything not to go to sleep—that thing where they do the nighttime cabaret and they become more beautiful than ever. I'd probably do a few bedtimes.
Gleeson: I'd probably go back when my grandparents were still alive and maybe spend a little bit of quality time with them.
How did the initial concept for the film come about?
Curtis: It came from a conversation with a friend about whether or not we were happy, and we both came to the conclusion we were not as happy as we should be. We kept talking about what would be the perfect day. And we said, 10 years ago, we would have said we'd like to fly to Las Vegas, win $1 million, [or] get a text saying that [we 'd been] nominated for an Oscar. And now, the happiest day was the one we were having, just having lunch with each other. [It was] taking [our] kids to school, having dinner with the family. And I thought [about] a film about something as simple... the only way [was to] make up a huge contraption of time travel, create a character who can go anywhere, make any of these choices, and chooses to go back just to a normal day.
How are you most like your character?
Gleeson: [The] characteristic I share with Tim is being a little bit awkward with girls. Our first day on the film, when it was my first time acting with Rachel, we were on the train, and Richard just called out as we were rolling, “Just lean across and kiss her.” So, I thought, okay—sorry, whatever—and I leaned across and kissed her full on the mouth. And then, there was a pause, and Richard said, “I meant your daughter,” who was sitting right there.
Curtis: Rachel launched an official complaint (laughs).
Gleeson: And that's why she's not here today (laughs).
The father-son dynamic is really strong and really relatable in the film. How did that relationship develop?
Curtis: When I met Bill about the film, he said “I'm happy to do it, but I don't want to do any acting.” I think what he meant was that he wanted to do something so sort of simple and generous that it allowed people who saw the film to kind of put their own father into the slot he was occupying.
About Time opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, November 1.