"About Time" - Film Review

About TimeAbout TimeI've been writing film reviews every now and then for a publication and website called Visual Parables for almost the last ten years.  Visual Parables examines films from a faith perspective and provides discussion questions for each film.

Visual Parables is published by Ed McNulty, author of such books as, Faith and Film: A Guidebook for Leaders, Praying the Movies, and Praying the Movies II.

I asked Ed if he would mind if I published any reviews I wrote here on my blog and he gave me full permission.  So...  Here's my review of About Time (and here's a link to my review at Visual Parables).

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

                                                                                                Joshua 24:15

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

                                                                                                Philippians 4:8

As a sci-fi fan, I’m not prone to spending extra money on a movie that doesn’t involve lasers, superpowers, or time travel.  So when I heard that About Time (directed by Richard Curtis, who also brought us movies like Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones’s Diary) was a romantic comedy in which the guy could travel through time I thought this would be a great movie to take my wife to.

And it was a great movie!  It was funny, charming, romantic, heart-warming, and inspiring.

About Time is the story of a guy named Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) whose dad (Bill Nighy) tells him at the age of 21 that the men in their family have the ability to travel through time.  Naturally, Tim thinks his dad is pranking him—a very strange prank, he says—so when he decides to give time travel a shot (by going into a dark place, clenching his fists, and thinking about the moment to which he wants to travel), Tim can’t believe it.

But there are limits, says his dad, to his ability.  He can’t travel into the future and he can only travel to times and places that he himself has been.  “You can’t,” says his dad, “kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy.”

So, how does Tim choose this newfound ability?  He decides to use it to get a girlfriend.  The great thing about his ability to go back in time is that if he says something stupid or does something embarrassing he can go back and change the outcome.  And after a few hiccups along the way, he finally finds himself in a relationship with a sweet girl named Mary (Rachel McAdams), an American girl living in London.

The story follows Tim and Mary through their courtship, their engagement, their marriage, and even having children.  All the while, Tim does his best to make the world better for himself and his family.

But when Tim finds out that his dad has cancer, he discovers that there are some things he just can’t change.  He wrestles with the reality that not even his amazing ability can keep his dad from dying.

In the end, this movie is about living life to the fullest.  It’s about choosing to enjoy the little things in life.  It’s about deciding to let go of the things that just don’t matter in the long run.  And it’s about learning to let go of the big things—like a beloved parent who has passed away—and moving on so you can continue to live into the richness and fullness of life even after you’ve lost a loved one.

For Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever wished you could go back and change the outcome of something that happened in your life?  Tell us about one of those moments.  How would that circumstance have turned out if you could have gone back and changed it?
  2. Why does Tim use his power to get a girlfriend, rather than for something more earth-shattering?
  3. Recall the scene where Tim is being seduced by the girl who had been his “first love,” even though he was already in a committed relationship with Mary.  There is no time travel in that scene.  Why not?  What does this scene tell us about making the right decisions with the one life we’ve been given?
  4. According to Joshua 24:15, we are called to choose whether or not we will “serve the Lord.”  Sometimes we fail in that choice.  If we had Tim’s ability, we could go back and remake our choices to reflect our commitment to serving God.  But since we can’t go back, what do we do with our failures when it comes to choosing to serve God (see 1 John 1:9)?
  5. The movie’s theme emphasizes living life to the fullest and enjoying the little things.  Philippians 4:8 encourages the same thing.  What steps could you take to better live your life to the fullest—and serving God to the fullest—even without the ability to travel through time?
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