Time travel films usually are a high stakes endeavor. Considering the horrific 'butterfly effects' that can occur if you mess with historical events, the entire viewing experience can leave you clenched tight with anxiety. Will Marty McFly disappear out of existence if he can't get his parents to fall in love at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance? Will Ashton Kutcher be able to save his girlfriend from dying by stupidly changing the past so he's never born? Will the hot tub time machine from Hot Tub Time Machine give a group of high school buds a second chance at adolescence so they don't grow up into sad sacks of shit? It's all very nerve-wracking! Except in About Time.
The 2013 quirky romance starring Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams follows Tim, a sweet, awkward English guy who learns from his father (played with kooky dry wit that's extremely Bill Nighy's wheelhouse) that the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time after they turn 21. All they have to do is go into a dark space, clench their fists, and think back to a time in their own life, and suddenly they're there getting the sort of re-do dreamed of by anyone who's ever laid awake at night cringing about their most embarrassing moments. For Tim's dad, this power has allowed him to read tons of books, but Tim decides to use it to finally land a girlfriend. offering him the chance to go back in time and revise his painfully dorky behavior—for example, to not suggestively squirt a bunch of sunblock on his hot, unrequited crush Charlotte (Margot Robbie).
Of course, the best usage of his time-traveling abilities is unveiled when he meets Mary (McAdams), a painfully cute woman with questionable bangs, at one of those dumb restaurants where you eat in a pitch black room, and is immediately smitten. Complicated hilarity ensues as he tries to successfully court Mary without compromising other important moments of his life (Tim really has no issue messing with the space-time continuum non-stop just to get the perfect girlfriend). We'll save the spoilers, but the undeniably-twee-yet-highly-enjoyable film becomes an exploration on what it means to live a full, happy life. In this case, it's making sure you pay attention to even the small moments, all the fleeting, lovely things that make life beautiful.
I've become accustomed to expecting messed-up plot twists that take cheery-seeming stories into a dark place—so much so that any time nice, pure, happy things happen on my screen, I get nervous. (Same goes for any celebrity I love who has yet to be milkshake ducked.) It's hard to trust anything. Well, you can watch About Time and not worry about that. It's refreshing to watch a movie where issues get resolved fast, and everyone always does the right thing (minus a couple rude lines, like when Mary refers to her best friend as a prostitute just because she likes dark eyeshadow and pleather pants). Even the sad parts of the relatively low-stakes story are quickly patched up, and miraculously, that doesn't lead to a boring movie.
About Time is a calming balm to the tidal wave of bad news happening IRL, and the horrific turns your fave movies and shows love to take. This is the respite needed in between your re-watches of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, or Mad Men, where everyone does fucked up shit and you have to watch someone's brains get blown out or hang themselves from their office door for shock value. About Time keeps the drama light and goes hard with the heartwarming stuff, which is not the worst thing in the world right now.
About Time is available on Netflix.