Unlike some of the “raunch comedies”
currently extant in
, this romantic comedy is gentle, and winsome, and easy on the ears and eyes.
It’s also cute and funny, and despite dipping into the potential
unsolvable dilemma of time travel, it doesn’t bog down in its own idiom,
either. Except maybe for the repetitive
Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young
British man who has grown up with an unusual family:
not just Dad and Mom and little Sis, but also weird old Uncle D, who
dresses smartly and looks like he’s thinking benign thoughts, when actually
he’s not really thinking at all. He’s
about as dumb as a doorpost. But he
looks distinguished and kindly.
Tim has a great relationship with both
Mom and Dad, but especially Dad (Bill Nighy), who was a college professor, but
decided to retire at age 50, so mostly he’s been hanging around his library,
an avid reader, yes, but also always available for the occasional walk on the
seashore (they own an old family homestead), and the spirited but unskilled
game of table tennis, complete with commentary from an imaginary announcer.
Yeah, Dad’s a little wacky, but he’s fun, and he’s affectionate,
and he loves Mom, who gardens, mostly, and little Sis, who’s the blithe free
spirit and who has every opportunity for her weirdness to be celebrated.
Sounds almost perfect, right?
Except our young, single, unattached hero has a problem:
he’s been a flop with the girls. There
was even a ravishing house guest for a summer, but alas, he failed to show
interest in her soon enough. He has a
couple of dork friends, but they aren’t much comfort, because they don’t
know what they’re doing with the opposite gender, either.
By the time he goes off to school law, he’s practically without any
experience at all, and doesn’t even know how he’ll obtain any.
And then, at last, he meets the right one.
But of course, things at first don’t go so smoothly.
When Tim turned 21, his father called
him in for “the talk.” No, not that
one (what were you thinking?). But the
man-to-man talk his father had had with him, and his father before him.
The one calmly informing him that the males of the family all had a
certain gift: the capacity to travel
back in time. All they had to do was go
to a dark closet, clench their fists, and think about what point in their past
they would like to re-visit. No, they
can’t go back to anytime before they were born.
And, in a strange quirk of the weird family trait, the birth of a baby
also creates a stopping point which they can no longer go beyond.
Other than that, they are free to have a “do-over” when necessary.
This makes for several comedic moments,
as Tim, incredulous at first, goes back to re-do a New Year’s Eve countdown
where he failed to kiss the girl beside him. Ah,
wouldn’t it be lovely to have another chance at some of those lost
opportunities? But there’s a little
trick: once he goes back to “re-do” something, that “un-does” what
actually happened, so that when he goes back to try to save his roommate from
great personal calamity, he winds up wiping out his first encounter with the
girl of his dreams, Mary (Rachel McAdams).
This presents the opportunity for more
comic moments, as Tim tries to re-establish a connection that Mary doesn’t
remember, and the fact that he seems to know things about her kind of creeps
her out, instead of charming her. But
this is, after all, a romantic comedy, so we can safely root for our sweet
couple, who love each other so completely. And
we can also root for Tim as he struggles mightily with the concept that his
Dad might be failing, even as Tim himself becomes the kind of father we would
all like to see.
Yes, here’s a film that actually
celebrates deeply-committed family relationships, and it’s so refreshing.
Here’s an adult “rom-com” that can actually be recommended to the
Sunday School class. Hooray!
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,