Richard Curtis is one of the few idealists still working in cinema. The British writer-director creates films that seem to exist in their own carefree world. He doesn't ignore sadness or pain or basic humanity, but chooses to center movies like LOVE ACTUALLY or his latest, ABOUT TIME, around characters that suggest the best in people. They never lose that feeling of positivity or possibility, which is a refreshing break from the modern trend of dark and gritty realism in movies.
I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies, but Curtis' films are some of the better examples of the genre's potential when not catering to terrible relationship stereotypes. ABOUT TIME manages to be heartfelt but not melodramatic, and sappy without being cheesy. It features the requisite pairing between the aloof British "nice guy" and the sweet and adorable American girl, yet avoids the rom-com clichés (for the most part) outside of these archetypes. Domnhall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams have stellar chemistry together and their love story is never idealized to the point of losing all realism.
That's true even with the addition of time travel. Make no mistake; this is much more a romantic comedy than a sci-fi film. The time travel element—which is explained in the simplest manner possible—is more of a narrative device for the plot and characters than it is a temporal head-trip. It still offers some interesting twists to the story and Curtis uses it to great dramatic and comedic effect, especially in cases like the main characters' first night together.
The supporting characters are also memorable to the story, but Bill Nighy, unsurprisingly, is completely awesome as the dad. The best part of the movie for me, even more than the romance, was the father-son dynamic between the two men. (If you get emotional, you might want to exercise caution towards the end.) It's a great lesson in appreciating what you have, when you have it, no matter who they are.
Commentary by director Richard Curtis and actors Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Vanessa Kirby, Lydia Wilson, and Tom Hollander: This is a fairly lively track thanks to the full roster. (Hope you're good with British accents!) It's engaging and informative throughout, with plenty of stories and trivia shared about the production.
Deleted Scenes (15:32): I can see why these were cut, as they would probably drag down the film. But some are still worth checking out, including one gag any Beatles fan would appreciate.
Blooper Reel (3:15): Your standard gag reel, with an introduction by Curtis.
About Tim and Time Travel (5:13): The writer-director talks about how he conceived the film and its various themes. Not terribly in-depth.
The Look, Style, and Location (8:13): Cast and crew touch on shooting on location throughout England.
The World of Richard Curtis (3:55): This fluff piece just features people talking up Curtis as a brilliant writer-director, but it's too short to really explore anything worthwhile about his work.
You also get Music Videos for Ben Folds' "The Luckiest" and Ellie Goulding's "How Long Will I Love You?," as well as a DVD and Digital Copy of the film.
I'd say it's almost impossible to leave ABOUT TIME without a smile on your face. If you're in the mood for a rom-com, this entry from one of the masters of the genre is a solid bet. And Bill Nighy is the man.
Extra Tidbit: Curtis has said that this will be the last film he directs. What a shame.