Curtis has said he may stop making movies, and on the basis of this film you can kind of see why: he's clearly in a rut. While this romance attempts a bit of magical whimsy, it's the same collection of sassy comedy, romantic drama and sudsy sentimentality that characterised Love Actually and Notting Hill. More troubling is how it presents that same almost offensively slanted view of British society.
The magical element is time travel, as young Tim (Gleeson) learns from his father (Nighy) that the men in his family can flit back along their timelines at will, reliving past events and fixing things where needed. Tim decides this will come in handy as he looks for a wife, and indeed he uses his skill to circle round and round charming American Mary (McAdams) until they fall in love. And over the next several years, as he figures out how to make their life together as amazing as possible, he learns that there are some limitations to this gift.
As always, Curtis gives his characters a fantasy level of wealth that doesn't really make sense. We never see Tim travel back to win the lottery, but there's no other explanation for how he and Mary are able to buy a house in a posh Maida Vale street. And these characters also live in an imagined pocket of London that has no diversity at all, as we never see anyone who isn't white and straight. But then, Tim's idyllic childhood on the Cornish coast isn't exactly believable either, complete with a quirky earth-adoring sister (Wilson) and always-confused uncle (Cordery).
Fortunately, Curtis writes great dialog that crackles with real-life humour and emotion, orchestrating our laughter and tears. And the cast is superb at inhabiting these sparky people. In the usual Hugh Grant role, Gleeson is awkward and hopeful and completely endearing, while McAdams is less textured but likeable enough. Nighy steals every scene in a prickly, funny role, while the underused Duncan is terrific as his matter-of-fact wife. And for comic relief, we have Hollander as a perpetually grumpy family friend. Yes, the story is populated by the usual types, but it at least holds our interest while providing moments of sharp comedy and weepy sentiment. Although the endless series of emotional endings rings us dry.
Run time: 123 mins
In Theaters: Friday 8th November 2013
Box Office USA: $15.3M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Translux, Working Title Films
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 95 Rotten: 43
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Richard Curtis
Screenwriter: Richard Curtis
Starring: Rachel McAdams as Mary, Bill Nighy as Dad, Domhnall Gleeson as Tim, Tom Hollander as Harry, Margot Robbie as Charlotte, Lindsay Duncan as Mum, Lee Asquith-Coe as Bin Man, Vanessa Kirby as Joanna, Lisa Eichhorn as Mary's Mother, Jean, Lydia Wilson as Kit Kat, Matthew C. Martino as Commuter