Here it is, gentlemen – another fine romantic comedy that we guys can love and appreciate just as much as the women in our lives. 'About Time' is an epic film whose grandeur expands beyond the simple "rom-com" label. It encompasses every aspect of life. It's the rare aesthetically-pleasing piece of entertaining art that changes your perspective on how you live your life. I loved 'Gravity,' 'Captain Phillips' and '12 Years a Slave,' but 'About Time' remained my personal vote for Best Picture.
If you don't know much about Richard Curtis' 'About Time,' keep it that way. This is a movie where you don't want the whole thing spoiled by the trailers. Basically, here's all you need to know: 'About Time' was written and directed by the brilliant Brit who gave us 'Love Actually.' It stars Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan Gleeson) as a kid who learns at the age of 21 that the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time. Rachel McAdams plays the love interest. Bill Nighy plays the father. The film is absolutely whimsical.
Don't assume that you're headed into a standard romantic comedy. Yes, there's a rom-com element to 'About Time,' but that's only a fraction of what the movie is really about. The story covers an enormous amount of ground without feeling rushed, forced or condensed. In a seamlessly episodic fashion, it's about maturity, family, integrity, childhood, parenthood, and happiness, as well as romantic love. When the credits rolled, I didn't immediately gather my belongings and shuffle through the doors to the lobby. I sat there, completely still. I paused and took a deep breath, thinking about certain aspects of my life and how they pertained to the many morals of the story, none of which come across as preachy or cheesy. And then I got up and saw the world through a new pair of eyes. In the days that followed, I reflected back on the film and the feelings that it left me with. As corny as it sounds, I pondered what I could do to become a better person. I can only think of a few films that have left me as inspired as this, but this is easily the most powerful of them.
I know what you're thinking: 'Luke, you're a romantic fool. What makes you think that everyone will have this same experience?" Let me tell you why.
I first screened 'About Time' was in late September of last year. Having a newborn baby girl and a recovering wife at home, I took an old college buddy as my guest rather than my usual guest - my wife. He was the same friend who introduced me to 'Love Actually,' so I figured that I owed him one. Amidst the audience, there were two other critics – both of which have very different taste from myself or one another. I knew that 'About Time' was something special when the lights came up and all four of us, my guest included, had red eyes. None of us moved. We all went through this same experience that I just described. Four grown men who usually dart from screenings the moment the credits roll just sat there. Once the credits ended, we walked and talked on our way out, each sharing the exact same sentiment. The studio reps explained that the general audience's consensus had been the same.
But don't take my word from just that screening. Another screening was held several weeks later on the night before my birthday. Loving the film so much and wanting to share it with as many people as possible (and because it was Birthday Eve), I was allowed to bring extra guests. So, I returned with my wife and a few other couples. Not only did every one of my friends experience the same thing that I had, but the rest of the audience actually cheered and applauded as the credits began. Not a single one of the impressions that I felt during the first screening were lost. Four weeks later at my second viewing, the movie held up magnificently. Since I then became able to talk about it at home with someone who had seen it, that feel-good inspirational feeling lingered for much longer. And now, having watched the film for a third time, it's exactly the same.
I know that it's not conventional for a reviewer to open up so personally and intimately about a trio of viewing experiences, but this is the best way for me to express the brilliance and perfection of 'About Time' without spoiling the story. I've been moved by films before – to stop eating this or start doing that – but nothing close to the life-changing extent that this one has inspired. Combine that power with the entertaining, likeable, positive and charming-as-hell characters and story, and you have an absolutely perfect film, possibly even one of the best of all time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal has seized the day and given 'About Time' a fully-loaded Blu-ray release. The set contains a BD-50 of the film and lots of special features, a DVD of the film, and both iTunes and Ultraviolet digital copies of the film – all housed in a two-disc blue Elite keepcase and a glossy and slightly embossed cardboard slipcase. When you pop the disc in, the only thing to play before the main menu are skippable trailers for 'Love Actually,' 'Dallas Buyers Club,' 'Rush,' 'The Little Rascals Save the Day' and 'Best Man Holiday.' The main menu features that standard Universal style with a static image background and the film's gentle score playing in the background.
'About Time' has been given a fantastic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that presents the picture in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The film is filled with beautifully bright and detailed imagery and this transfer allows you to perfectly see into these well-planned and intimately filmed shots. The crystal clear quality allows you to examine the richly-dressed sets, should you decide to. Fine details are abundant. Individual strands of hair on Rachel McAdams' head are visible, as are their pores and follicles on Domhnall Gleeson's face. Clothing carries textures. The smooth and soft qualities of Margot Robbie's skin are apparent as Domhnall rubs tanning lotion into it. It's fantastic to have a romantic and comedic film not be bogged down by soft imagery.
A film as loving as this, it's no surprise that the palette consists of warm and lively colors. Although dabbling in serious content, the palette never sways dark or uninviting, but bright and comfortable. It's consistently inviting, creating an environment that you won't want to leave. When a scene calls for it, colors can be punctuated through increased vibrancy without appearing overly saturated or washing out details. Black levels are perfect. An entire scene is set in a pitch black pretentious restaurant that's meant to remove the sense of sight in order to enhance the sense of taste. The only visible elements are tiny light reflections off the glasses and silverware. With this scene being actually filmed and not created in post production, it's nice to have a perfect black level.
There really aren't any flaws to mention. Noise is absent, as are bands and aliasing.
'About Time' features a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. I expected it to be like any average front-heavy romantic film's, but was surprised that wasn't the case at all. A lot more love has been placed into this mix than you might expect.
'About Time' kicks off with a voice-over narration that bookends and arises throughout the picture. Gleeson's voice is richly resonant and perfectly balanced with the music and effects that accompany it. During the intro, one segment of this montage-ish sequence is set on a beach. Despite being a background sound made to accompany his narration, the waves still crash and splash dynamically in the surround speakers. Moments later, we get light rainfall that's also well mixed. Many effects are great. Tim's father explains the act of going back in time as a "stumble and a rumble and a tumble." The first time that Tim goes back, there's definitely a nice bassy rumble and other swishing effects, but it seems that more sounds are added the deeper we get into the film. At one point, you'll hear ticking clocks as he uses his power, something that I didn't notice either of the occasions that I saw 'About Time' in theaters.
Going back to the vocals, not only are they clear and leveled properly against the other sounds, but a few instances allow them to shine as they're spread across the room. For example, when Tim and Mary dine in the pitch black restaurant, Tim's vocals emanate solely from the right channels, while Mary's originate from the left. This effects allows you to see what's unseen - the two characters eating and talking face to face. It's nice having a romantic Blu-ray that doesn't simply settle for front-and-center mixing, but puts everything in its right place.
As we've come to expect from Richard Curtis' films, music plays an important part in creating the desired tone and feel. Both the score and the music ring out clearly and beautifully. During the family's New Year's Eve party, the pop and rock songs ring out with the environment-specific quality of loud music being blasted through an entire house, even carrying a little echo from bouncing off walls.
While watching this Blu-ray, I couldn't hide my excitement for the extra tender love and care put into this lossless audio mix.
I absolutely adore 'About Time.' It's an under-appreciated gem, one that I'm determined to share with as many people as I can. The day it opened theatrically, I looked for showtimes in the areas where my siblings and parents live just so I could tell them when and where they could see it. I pushed more than a dozen friends and family members to it and not one of them hasn't loved 'About Time.' Not only does it work very well from a filmmaking standpoint, but – as cheesy as this is going to sound – it speaks to the heart and soul. There's a universal element to this film that anyone can connect with. We're all sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, to someone out there. We all have loved ones and those that we intimately care for. And we're all striving for happiness. The tale it tells points out the significance of these things and suggests a brilliant way to always remember what's important. I deem this disc a must-own because it carries the type of aesthetic that you'll not only want to revisit, but you'll want to share. The great video and audio qualities and the good amount of special features are just a bonus. Forget the unimpressive reviews out there and give 'About Time' a shot.