Not all movies make me cry. I’m not necessarily a major weeper, but if a movie or a TV show strikes just the right chord, then my tears are a melody of all my feels.
That being said, there are some movies that make me cry more than most – and make me cry every time I watch them. This is one of those movies. (Beware: there are obviously spoilers. And this one isn’t one you want spoiled. Enjoy it spoiler-free the first time ’round.)
The sad truth of the matter is that the rom-com is in critical condition.
As Alexander Huls of The Atlantic puts it, “While rom-coms (love stories anchored to comedic situations, amusingly neurotic characters and happily-ever-afters) continued to flounder, cinematic romance (fewer laughs, more human portrayals of being in love) thrived in 2013 … What distinguished these films as something better than romantic comedies, however, was their unwillingness to sacrifice the realistic nuances and complexities of relationships.”
Enter About Time.
Not only does it follow an adorably optimistic ginger Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) as he falls in love with Mary (Rachel McAdams), but his dad is played by none other than Bill Nighy who, in this film, rivals Easy A‘s Stanley “The Tooch” Tucci for best movie dad ever.
Plus there’s the addition of time travel.
Now, I know what you’re thinking because I thought the same thing before seeing it in theatres last year: this could either be really good or really, really awful. But with writer and director Richard Curtis at the helm, it was very much the former.
There are so many things about this movie that are fantastic. There’s Tim’s family and their quirky yet authentic roles. There’s the realistic dynamic they have between them and that settled truth that family will always be there. There’s Tim’s love and appreciation for his out-there sister Kit Kat (that made me teary when I watched it the first, second, third and fourth times). There’s his Uncle Desmond with his impeccable suits who is described as “the most charming and least clever man you could ever meet.” There’s his adorable pursuit of Mary, seeking her out in multiple timelines because he’d always use his ability to travel back in his life (an ability just the men in his family have, which he found out when he turned 21) “for love.”
But most importantly there’s his relationship with his dad.
Which is where that “cinematic romance” Huls talks about comes in. As much as you may think it’s another two hours of Rachel McAdams being pursued by a time traveller (again), that’s the secondary story. At times, certainly, it comes to the forefront, but the entire thing is truly centred around Tim and his dad.
And I’m already tearing up again as I write this because it’s so friggin’ beautiful.
The first time I really let the tears fall freely while watching this is his dad’s best man speech. Both his first go at it and his second (because he travels back in time to say he loves Tim – something he forgot to do the first time around).
And then he goes to say goodbye to his dad, who is dying and the tears are falling too fast to count.
First his sturdy and unemotional mum opens the door to their Cornwall home and says, “I am so uninterested in a life without your father.”
Then he sees his Uncle Desmond who looks at him with that content Uncle Desmond look on his face and says about Tim’s father, “At your wedding he said he loved me. That was the best day of my life. So this is probably the worst.”
And the tears pour even faster.
And then it’s the funeral. With everyone walking out in black and Harry, the angry, bitter, grumpy playwright even calls it a “hateful day.” And people who are supposed to be unemotional and stoic are revealing the truth: that Tim’s dad is their weak spot and his death is just simply tragic.
This is all emotional and tear-inducing and leaving me a mess on its own. But then Mr. Curtis decides to push it that much further.
Mary wants another kid, which means Tim can’t travel back in time before the conception (time travel rules) and he’ll have to say goodbye to his dad forever, which he does. And there’s a moment that even thinking about has me reaching for the tissues. His dad realizes why he came back in time to play one last game of table tennis with him. And they share a hug. And Tim kisses his dad’s cheek.
And his dad says, “My son.”
And Tim says, “My dad.”
And I’m crying hideously.
And the movie ends with one of the most beautifully profound statements I’ve heard in a long time:
“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.”
And it’s so ordinary, but so extraordinary. Not because of time travel or because of any big moments in these people’s lives. Their lives are profound and wonderful and beautiful because they make the ordinary extraordinary. Which is all any of us can do.