On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is let into a little family secret by his dad (Bill Nighy) – the men can travel back in time.
He later mees the girl of his dreams (Rachel McAdams) on a trip to London, but after zipping back in time, finds himself at a point before she knew him, and so has to re-engineer their meeting.
Time travel is a familiar plot device dating back to HG Wells’s The Time Machine, and its use offers up intriguing what-if scenarios.
Rather than go back to the same moment where he first met her, Tim spends a large part of the film jumping back and forth trying to ensure that love runs smoothly.
The scriptwriters of this romantic comedy are not too worried about the consistency of the family gift. At times, Tim returns at the same moment he left, and others he is inexplicably absent for the duration.
But such are the film’s charms that it really doesn’t do to dwell on technicalities too much.
Richard Curtis is the king of the British feel-good romance since his hits Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Ultimately, time travel is just a ploy for the writers to explore love between father and son, and romance between Tim and Mary, as the pair fall in love, get married and have children.
There are some laugh-out loud moments but what really hits home is the deeply touching familial relationship made all the more poignant as we discover that Tim’s dad has cancer.
Of course, the elements of middle class North Londoner meets nice American girl are familiar to fans of Curtis and wisely he returns to what he does best.
Gleeson shows himself to be every bit the Hugh Grant of our day. His bumbling, well-spoken loser routine is the perfect companion to Nighy’s understated father act
An added bonus is the poignant soundtrack including songs by The Cure, Amy Winehouse and Nick Cave, with the latter’s ‘Into My Arms’ coming into its own in arrangements for a funeral.
The film comes together in a tremendous emotional finale in which only the stonehearted will be able to resist the story’s embracing impulse to seize each day as if it’s the last.
There will be tears.
Review by Joe Gill