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Film: About Time

About Time is a British romantic comedy science fiction film revolving around time travel. Written and directed by Richard Curtis, the film is based on his own screenplay and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. The film was released in Britain and Ireland on September 3, 2013 and was released in the United States on November 1, 2013.

Tim Lake finds out from his father when he's 21 that every male in his family has the ability to travel in time. At first the awkward Tim uses it to improve his life and impress the girl of his dreams, Mary. But when he accidentally erases part of his timeline, he learns about the ramifications causality can have on his life.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Tim
  • Alternate Timeline
  • Amnesiac Lover: Of a sort. Tim and Mary have a brilliant first date, but it gets erased when he goes back in time to help a friend instead of going to the restaurant.
  • The Cameo: Richard Griffiths and Richard E. Grant appear in Harry's play, as opposing lawyers in a court scene.
  • Close Enough Timeline: Tim's goal.
  • Cool Old Guy: Tim's dad.
  • Dawson Casting: Subverted and inverted; the actors look about the right age for their characters at the start of the film, but as a few years pass and they become young parents it becomes very clear that they're at least five years younger than their characters.
  • Falling in Love Montage.
  • Geek Physique
  • Genre Savvy: Fellow timetraveller Tim's dad is certainly savvy enough to silently catch that Tim has just come back from the future on a number of occasions.
  • Godwin's Law of Time Travel: Tim's dad explains that since it's Mental Time Travel, Tim can't change events from before he was born, and names killing Hitler as an example.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: While the setup would lend itself to this, Tim doesn't replay many events repeatedly. But he does loop over his choice of best man quite a few times, with each candidate giving a worse speech than the last.
  • Hero of Another Story: Tim's dad could easily have a movie to himself. Kit-Kat to a lesser extent.
  • Hollywood Dateless: Tim is handsome enough, but he is incredibly awkward. Luckily time-travelling fixes that, as with planning and forethought he can be pretty charming.
  • Instant Seduction: Tim walks up to Mary (who doesn't know him at all), quotes pretty much her own words about Kate Moss back to her, and she pretty much swoons and invites him up to her apartment.
  • Lady in Red: Mary at her and Tim's wedding.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Tim disastrously does this accidentally, erasing his relationship with Mary.
  • Mental Time Travel: Tim can send his mind back into his past self.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Charlotte introduces her female friend as her "girlfriend" which confuses Tim. However, her friend really is a lesbian.
  • No Name Given: Tim's Dad is listed as such in the credits (but Tim calls him James in passing to Harry). As is his mother although it is mentioned many times that she is also called Mary
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: Tim merely has to go into a dark place, close his eyes and focus, and he instantly goes back.
  • Out of Time, Out of Mind: Averted. Tim is definitely changed by falling in love with Mary, and treats losing that as losing a central part of his life.
  • Peggy Sue: Tim does this deliberately to avoid embarrassment.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Tim doesn't seem to particularly revisit his sex scenes with Mary apart from the first. Though considering any one of those encounters could have lead to a child, alter the timeline and erase his current children, perhaps this is merely caution on his part. Tim also rejects the chance abuse his power to cheat on his girlfriend, despite knowing full well he can make it so it never happened.
  • Reset Button
  • Ret Gone: After changing his sister's life, Tim's daughter is replaced by a son. He brings her back by retgoning the son.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Only the person who makes the trip back in time possesses this. Tim's dad is a time traveler too, but doesn't remember the changes Tim makes.
    • At one point Tim travels back with his sister (who can't travel back in time on her own). When they return to the present her memory is affected (she suddenly knows she is in a different relationship in the altered timeline) but she also retains the knowlege they time travelled in the first place.
    • In one conversation with his dad, Tim guesses that his dad may also have gone back and replayed it, and his dad confirms this. One wonders what'd happen if Tim and his dad really wanted opposite things from a conversation: would they both keep replaying it, flip-flopping the outcome, ad infinitum?
      • Probably not. They would likely recognize the other's saying "Excuse me a minute," and call them out on it.
  • Save Scumming: Basically the premise of the movie.
  • Second Love: Tim is first infatuated with his sister's boyfriend's cousin Charlotte, from whom he learns an important lesson: "All the time travel in the world won't make someone love you." It works out with Mary because they have actual chemistry without time travel.
  • Secret Keeper: Tim reveals his secret to his sister and actually takes her back time travelling with him. She only knows briefly however; due to other circumstances Tim ends up reverting this edit to the timeline.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: Tim's dad recommends against this, since money can't buy happiness.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The time travel appears to have at least two different modes, but the explanation is very scanty. Tim can go back to a previous occasion and change what he did, but then he can choose to either live from that point onwards, or snap forward to where he jumped from and see what the changes have been. The event described in Secret Keeper seems to suggest he can also undo these changes.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer suggests that Tim and Mary's entire relationship is eradicated from the timeline, but actually it's only their first meeting.
    • Furthermore, the trailer gives the impression that he erases their meeting by going back in time to prevent his father from dying in a car accident. In fact, it's his sister, not his father, who's involved in a (non-fatal) car accident, and it happens much later in the movie. His father does eventually die, of lung cancer, but there's nothing he can do to prevent it.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: subverted. Mary thanks Tim for not staging one, and Tim agrees... and then goes outside to dismiss the one he actually did stage.
  • Your Cheating Heart: subverted. Tim gets a chance to get with Charlotte, but instead rushes home to profess his love for Mary. Considering the consequence-free nature of time travel, this says a great deal about Tim's character.
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