I’ve recently rewatched the film “About Time” and am now comfortable declaring it as my favorite film. Besides the high degree of relatability I have with the plot, being a somewhat awkward and goofy young professional who somehow stumbled into an instant love with an incredibly sweet girl, I enjoyed the humorous juxtaposition of the mundane alongside the incredulous and supernatural.
The film is a sweet story not so much about time travel as it is one about coming to terms with your individualism, however undervalued those quantities might have been in your youth.
I thought it was substantial that the father not reveal the family secret to Tim until he was twenty one years old. Thematically, I think this decision enabled the film to convey valuable life lessons to an older audience than most films. The familiar setting of the film, particularly as it relates to my life (especially where I am in life currently), enabled me to become significantly attached to the characters off the bat, especially Tim.
As the plot rolls forward following Tim’s path through time forwards and back, his humble journey elicited a range of joy, despair, glee and remorse as he wielded his incredible gift against the familiar trials of life, with mixed results. I grew increasingly empathetic of Tim and his mostly noble choices, impressed by his attempt to always make those around him happy and fulfilled.
Tim triumphs over what he had initially declared to be the purpose he would pursue with his powers, as he settles into love and then family with Mary. Meanwhile, his father, who energizes the plot with the revelation of time travel, is revealed to be dying and his condition worsens rapidly thereafter. In this swift course of dopamine reversal, the film forced the focus away from Tim and instead towards introspection.
The scene that really gets me is the last one with Tim and his father. His father, James laments that his cancer is unavoidable even with their endowed power. Before he dies, he shares with Tim his “secret formula” for happiness including a recipe for using the gift:
And so he told me his secret formula for happiness. Part one of the two part plan was that I should just get on with ordinary life, living it day by day like anyone else. But then came part two of dad’s plan, he told me to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be. But the second time noticing.
Finally, Tim comes to embrace normality in its entirety. As the film exhausts its last bit of kinetic energy, Tim shares one last nugget of insight
In the end, I think I’ve finally learned the final lesson from my travels in time. And I’ve even gone one step further than my father did. The truth is, I now don’t travel back at all – not even for the day. I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day to enjoy it. As if it was the full final day of my extraordinary ordinary life.
With this, the credits begin to roll following a stream of tears. This movie always leaves me touched, inspired, happy and looking forward to my life ahead. Lastly, I can’t help but wonder if Tim will choose to share the family secret with his son, Jeff — only time will tell.