Phil's Quick Capsule Review

Review: About Time (DVD/BR)

The Review:  An open letter to writer/director Richard Curtis.

“Dear Mr. Curtis.

I recently had the very unfortunate displeasure of enduring your latest work “About Time”. I am a massive fan of your early work; in particular Not the Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder and Four Weddings and a Funeral. All these examples are at least twenty years old, caught at a time when I clearly was in a very influential mood in my formative years, and continue to uphold that those previously named titles are among the best of their genre.

I write to you, candidly, to ask – where has it all gone wrong of late? Since Four Weddings, your work has drudged down an endlessly mediocre path. It wasn’t until The Boat That Rocked that I really started to see your limitations. That was a pithy, half-arsed effort by any stretch of the imagination. Now, you’ve seen fit to foist a time travel romantic comedy upon us. You are clearly not equipped to have taken such a challenge.

First of all, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, by London (and by the looks of it, most of Surrey or Kent, or wherever the main character is from) has changed. Gone are the days of moviegoers relating to ginger thirtysomethings posing as twenty-one year olds (Domnhall Gleeson) of such ABC1 stock toddling off to stay with a wealthy playwright in St. John’s Wood. Precisely whom do you think you and Working Title think you’re aiming your film at? Mercifully, this notion is the very least of the movie’s problems.

This time travel business. His Dad, played – as usual by the omnipresent Bill Nighy (is this where you got the idea from, incidentally?) – avails his son that if he goes into a cupboard and squeezes his hands, he can revisit his own past and change the course of events. This seems okay – but I must ask, why can you, a revered scribe, not play by your own rules? Take for example, the first time the lead character literally bumps into the female lead played by Rachel McAdams (in a gut wrenching set up involving a restaurant operated by the blind) in a sequence in the dark so long we need time stamp intervals all over it. If he has to rescue his roommate’s play by holding up cue cards, and thereby missing his first encounter with McAdams, why couldn’t he go back in time to do both? Or catch one earlier than the other?
There are innumerable moments like this in the film; each one testing my patience before the one that sees the creepy lead have sex with the female lead, remark that he was “not very good” and disappear into the cupboard to try again. Now, Mr. Curtis, I’m all for creative licence – really, I am. But this is taking the piss.
I consider this package of thinly veiled insults a direct attack on my character. Do you really think I, or any of my fellow human peers with reasonably developed brains and intellect, will tolerate this? Clearly you do – and, clearly, this says more about you as an artist than the film itself.

I am writing, principally, to instruct you to stop writing movies herewith. You should know better. You should certainly know better than as a writer to hire yourself as a director; but on this occasion, your writing is going to cause a lot of upset to a great many people. I am sorry to report that you are neither big nor clever – and your recent “work” is untying the great historic works in your catalogue. I can withstand and tolerate maybe one or two misfires. However, with you, we are experiencing a decay; a collapses; an utter Enron-style dismantling at the imagination bank of Curtis. You must stop this incessant insistence that your movies bring joy to the masses, and that if your movie had not starred Bill Nighy or blatantly forked out what appears to be well over £100k for the soundtrack and probably a hundred times that for the marketing of the movie, that somehow you have created a success. You have not. You have not succeeded, either, in creating a work worthy of a score out of ten.

It brings me no pleasure in having to write this to you, openly – publicly. I am to assume my last private letter to you regarding The Boat That Rocked did not manage to find its way to your desk, and so you leave me no other option. I do hope you take this correspondence the way it I intend it to be taken; deadly serious and without any trace of irony.

I would like to thank you, however, for at least tacking on a thick subtext concerning the preciousness of time; how time given from someone is the greatest gift of all, and that it should not be squandered. It pains me to have to report that I walked away from this film approximately 50 minutes into its running time; the film made me realise we do not have much time on this planet and that we cannot live in the past. Curiously enough, this letter seems to serve as a contrary response to precisely that sentiment; however. With an hour and twenty minutes left of the movie, and a quick five minute visit to Wikipedia to read up on precisely what I was about to miss, and this resultant letter taking me roughly twenty minutes to write, means I have saved approximately fifty-five minutes of time I would have otherwise squandered being lectured to about the precariousness of the time I was wasting watching the fucking message in the first place.

I do hope that made sense. If it didn’t, then at least I can bask in the knowledge that it made more sense than the mechanics of your narrative in the movie.

Yours with the utmost regret,

Andrew Mackay”


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Andrew Mackay

Andrew Mackay

Andrew MacKay has been watching, obsessing over and reviewing movies for absolutely ages. He has made numerous short films and has recently completed his own feature length movie THE SCARED OF DEATH SOCIETY. Andrew was the original anchor of the successful yet ultimately short lived AMR Movie Show, co-hosting with Filmsploitation's Richard Blanchette.

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