Let me first off start by saying I love Richard Curtis movies so when I saw the trailers for this I was intrigued, it looked like a departure from his normal romantic comedies as it had a fantasy/sci-fi element. What a twee plot device I though this is going to be just like 50 First Dates, Groundhog Day or Sliding Doors so when the title appeared I smiled and prepared myself for a good old light-hearted British chuckle.
Now I am going to warn you now the first couple of paragraphs of this review will be spoiler free just to give you an overview of my general feelings towards to the movie. However, in order to review it I’m going to give away important plot points so if you want to fully enjoy it then read the first couple of paragraphs and get yourself to the cinema. If you have seen it then read till your heart’s content.
Bill Nighy, that’s all you need to know. He is tremendous his performance is funny, witty, heartbreaking and I would watch this again just to see this great man on-screen. Of course I have to put a massive disclaimer here saying that I have had the privilege of meeting Mr Nighy on multiple occasions and have to say he is in real life as he is on-screen. He is warm, charming, engaging and a true gentleman. He is one of my all time favourite actors and to see him in this was a real treat, he has of course worked with Richard Curtis before on Love Actually but it was nice to see him get more screen time in this. The rest of the cast are also terrific and the quirky family unit works really well together and you get a sense of intimacy that I think most of us long for within our own relationships.
While I would say this is not the best movie I have seen from Richard Curtis it is one of his top ones. The time travel plot device is essentially flawed but it doesn’t matter much because the movie is more about the message of time, if you could live you day again would you do it differently? Do you take enough notice of the small things? Do we ever really have enough time with our loved ones? I have to say I was very pleased this didn’t rely on the Groundhog Day or 50 First Dates scenarios and was actually a little deeper and more real that I had expected it to be. I practically bawled through the entire third act but I thoroughly enjoyed it and ultimately left with a smile on my face.
Now the spoilery bits read on with caution
This movie is a heartbreaking family drama cleverly disguised as a romantic comedy, it sets you up to knock you down. It shows that even with the ability to travel back in time you can’t save people from themselves and things never quite work out the way you would expect. The first place this is shown is when Tim (Domhnall Gleeson of Harry Potter fame) falls hard for his sister Kit Kat’s (Lydia Wilson) friend Charlotte (Margot Robbie) who is there to stay for the summer. On the last night he tries his luck with her only to be told “if only you had asked me soon”. He travels back to try again only to be told “ask me how I feel on my last night” basically it was never going to happen, the lesson I guess is never live you life with what if’s or if only’s, what will be will be.
The second tragedy of the movie is with Tim’s sister Kit Kat who is a quirky not exceptionally well-adjusted girl who happened to fall for a looser of a bloke at a New Years Eve party. Their relationship and arguments spiral her into a doomed move to London, a string of failed jobs and eventually Alcoholism. This culminates in her getting into a car after a drunken argument with the boyfriend to drive to Tim’s daughters first birthday. She of course crashes and winds up in a hospital bed. Tim remarks to his wife (Rachel McAdams) “We have to fix her” to which she very sensibly replies “she has to want to fix herself”. Despite this Tim goes back in time with Kit Kat to prevent her from ever meeting the looser and she ends up with Tim’s loveable idiot best mate Jake. Happy Families or so we think when tim returns to his life he finds his daughter has been replaced with son and his actions have caused a different time line. The thought of his daughter being is too much so he undoes his fix and painfully sits at his sisters bedside until she comes to her own realisation that she had to fix her life. Lesson 2 – people have to work their lives out for themselves all you can do is support them you can’t do it for them.
The third and most heartbreaking revelation is that fact that tim’s dad (Bill Nighy) has cancer. He has gone back as far as is possible to get diagnosed but being unwilling to go back beyond the birth of his children it’s still to late. The scenes are played beautifully and I found Uncle D’s chat with Tim especially profound Richard Cordery is exceptional is this bumbling man who seemed to be in another world throughout the entire film explains that he knew Tim’s dad loved him and how important that was to him. Lesson 3 – even if sometimes people seem clueless they are actually very aware of what matters.
The final chapter revolves around the fact that due to his ability to time travel he can pop back and see his dad whenever he wants. He does this on many occasions touchingly even on the day of the funeral. Once this is all over Mary (the wife not the mother) announces that she would like to add another child to their charming little family. Tim instantly know what this means and is at once reluctant because once the new baby is born he will no longer be able to return to his father. Death and the grieving process is never easy but it is very final you have no choice but to come to terms with what has happened because there is no reversing it. This raises an interesting question, if you had to make a decision to never again see a loved one could you do it?
Tim makes one final heart breaking trip to his dad with the birth of the new baby being imminent they get to say their final goodbyes as he choses to live in the future and not the past. Dad imparts his final words of wisdom and we see Tim live everyday again noticing the small stuff and enjoying his life without stress and worry.
It is a very thought-provoking and funny movie with hopefully award-winning performances and all the charm we have come to expect from Curtis.
A weepy 7/10