Richard Curtis has given the world, among other quite British romantic comedies, “Notting Hill,” “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Love Actually.” Curtis wrote and directed “About Time.” And it happily fits his mix of humor and sensitivities.
There is one element missing, though: Actor Hugh Grant is nowhere to be seen.
Now, I wish Grant more addled parts to play in his future, but his absence from “About Time” was quite refreshing.
The unequivocal star of this show is Domhnall Gleeson, the ginger-head who plays young adult Tim as a regular-looking chap with great dollops of quirk, intelligence and diligence. When Tim is 21, you see, he is saddled with the great, big family secret: His dad, played as a guy with reluctant but obvious affection by Bill Nighy, tells Tim that like all the men in the bloodline, he can go somewhere dark, clench his fists and travel back to any time in his lifetime he picks.
But he must choose wisely. If the trip goes sideways, he can alter things he’d really rather keep as is while righting the wrongs.
Tim learns as he goes. The humor comes in small, incremental, dry British steps, but adds up to things that are quite amusing, indeed. Tim charms Mary, quite winningly played by Rachel McAdams, and the smart, pretty woman turns out to be the match of his life. They can be awkward together, wise together, happy and sad together.
The wisdom comes in equally short strides, through joyful and painful moments.
Tim learns to adapt to his gift. Then he learns to adjust his gift. And, lo and behold, his biggest present of all is right there, all the time.