About Time

November 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
Directed by: Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”)
Written by: Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”)

What never fails to makes a great love story is genuineness. It’s what all the greats – “Annie Hall,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Love Actually,” – have it in common. Simple, authentic storylines with relatable characters and relationships are what really make a romance, well, romantic. Encompassing all that and more is writer/director Richard Curtis’ “About Time.” It’s a film that just might find itself somewhere on the list of greatest rom-coms of all time, but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking. A heartwarming story about one man and his ability to time travel, “About Time” reminds you just how much life and love inevitably go hand in hand.

On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his father (Bill Nighy) he has the inherited ability to time travel. Initially set on using his newly-found talent to find a girlfriend, Tim soon discovers his skills at time travel may give him the power to do so much more. After meeting the beautiful yet insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams), Tim travels back in time to make her fall in love with him again and again after their first encounter doesn’t go as planned. Depicting the events of their life together over the span of a decade, Tim is eventually forced to realize his gift cannot fix everything wrong in his relationship after all.

Luckily, “About Time” does not revolve around the topic of time travel, and therefore is nothing like “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” which is great news for anyone that has seen how horrible that movie is. And sorry ladies, but it’s really not even a movie about finding your soul mate. Setting itself apart from the great love stories out there, Curtis writes a delightful and wonderfully surprising screenplay about the relationship between a father and son and, even more so, about the journey of life, how majestically messy it can be and how love can make it all worthwhile.

Portraying the ordinary and naive character of Tim, Gleeson hits the mark and graces the screen with an honest performance. One can only hope, after watching this movie, he is given the continued opportunity to earn more roles throughout his career. While McAdams complements Gleeson with their undeniable chemistry, Nighy transforms this story into what it is. Creating a unique and memorable takeaway for the audience, Gleeson and Nighy work together effortlessly and create a strikingly close picture of what it’s like for a son to idolize his father and what it’s like to be a parent who loves their child more than anything in the world.

There are scenes in “About Time” where Tim decides to time travel one too many times, making it feel a little repetitive. It’s easy to overlook that, however, with a perfectly paced screenplay filled with an abundance of quick and much appreciated comedy, not to mention its sporadic artistic cinematography. With many moments guaranteed to leave you breathless, “About Time” will have you walking on air.

War Horse

December 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan”)
Written by:  Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”) and Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”)

In my generation, childhood affection for horses was strictly a girl thing. No male I’ve ever known has squealed with delight at the mention of a pony. No guy I’ve ever met has ever doodled pictures in their notebook of the majestic steed they hoped to get for their birthday. That’s not sexist; it’s just a fact: horses were for girls. Maybe it has something to with the landmark boys’ toys of my youth being Transformers and G.I. Joe, while the girls my age had My Little Pony. Hasbro made the call. If my disinterest in horses is entirely market-driven, then it shouldn’t be surprising that the commercials for “War Horse” left me rolling my eyes. Why is this teenage boy whining so much about his horse?

Directed by Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan”), “War Horse” follows the adventures of Joey, a horse owned by teenager Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine). Purchased by Albert’s drunken father (Peter Mullan), Joey is saddled with the burden of saving the family farm. Trained by Albert to plow the field, Joey earns the admiration of the village. However when a flood wipes out the crops, money is needed to pay the rent. Joey is sold to the British army on the brink of World War I as Albert vows to reunite with him one day. As the war progresses, Joey’s journey takes him across Europe, and across enemy lines, from one owner to another.

As proven with “Saving Private Ryan,” no one directs early-20th century battle scenes like Spielberg.  From an early charge of the cavalry to a later battle in the trenches, the sequences here end up more family-friendly than the grisly, gory nightmares depicted in “Ryan” without losing the immediacy that made that film the standard-bearer. As the last conflict where man and beast worked together, World War I proves to be fertile ground for Spielberg, depicted here as a turning point in the history of war where mounted soldiers swung swords while being fired upon by machine guns. That’s the story you’ll wish was being told here. As it turns out, the film strays a little too far into schmaltzy territory when no weapons are being fired. As mentioned before, pre-Army Albert comes across whiny, and his passionate love for his horse falls on the wrong side of cheesy. One of Joey’s stops, with a sickly French girl and her doting grandfather, feels too cute by half and is mercifully ended by a battalion of German soldiers. And the less said about the sassy goose and Joey’s horse friend, the better.

It is a testament to the power of Spielberg, however, that the too-earnest parts can somehow stitch themselves together in a satisfying way, teaming up with the director’s masterful combat scenes to craft an uplifting conclusion that ends up bringing a tear to your eye.