I was pleasantly surprised by this film. On the surface it looks to be a bland rom-com using time travel as a plot device. Instead it is a moving story of being given second chances to right mistakes; but doing so has consequences.
After a particularly disastrous New Years Eve party and on his 21st birthday, Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his father (played by the always-excellent Bill Nighy) that the men their family are able to travel back in time. Tim uses his newly realized ability to go back to make his New Years Eve experience much better: he avoids bumping into a young woman which caused her to spill her drink down the front of her shirt; he kisses a cute girl the second time, rather than shaking her hand.
Tim realizes that using his time travel ability will be about love. He has never had a girlfriend and is determined to use his power to get one. The next summer, his kid sister’s friend, a young, attractive blonde girl, comes to their house in Cornwall to spend the summer. He is immediately attracted to her, but waits until her last day to make his move. She puts off his advances. Tim decides to go back in time to make his move right away, but the second time around she puts him off again. Tim realizes that he can’t make a woman fall in love with him, no matter how much he is able to stack the deck with his time-traveling abilities.
After moving to London, Tim meets the love of his life, Mary (played by Rachel McAdams), through a chance encounter. But he loses her when he goes back in time to help a friend. In the new time line, he never met Mary as he was elsewhere the night he originally met her. Even worse, he finally does track her down to “accidentally” run into her, but learns she just started dating a new boyfriend.
The movie explores the themes of regret, consequence, responsibility. Tim learns through sometimes very harsh lessons that time traveling to “fix” problems sometimes only makes them worse or changes things in ways he had not considered. He comes to realize that some problems can’t be fixed for people; sometimes a person has to fix his or her own problems.
The movie is touching, even moving in some scenes, but never overly sentimental or cloying. There is a lot of witty, sly humor as well. Rachel McAdams is adorable, as always. The scenes between Tim and his father stand out as well.
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Worth a look if you like moving, yet witty films dealing with love and life.
Skip it if you don’t like British romantic comedies.
MDE’s Self Appointed Movie Critic