All Is Lost
November 21, 2013
About Time (** ½)
About Time is very much in the same vein as other works by the film’s creator, Richard Curtis. Curtis is the architect behind such crowd pleasers as Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and that perennial holiday staple from 2003, Love Actually. At their worst, his films are typically of a dramatically uneven fashion and are best viewed under very little scrutiny. At their best, Curtis’ films manage to offer the audience some genuine insights into life and bring some rib-tickling laughs to the table from time to time. To say that Curtis’ films are a mixed bag is more than an understatement.
About Time is only the filmmaker’s second film in the last ten years. I actually enjoy seeing what he’s up to and About Time was no exception. You can obviously tell from the title that the film treads on that well-worn theme of time travel.
In the case of this film, Domhnall Gleeson (presumably filling the Hugh Grant role found in other Curtis projects) is 21 year-old Tim Lake.
Rachel McAdams & Domhnall Gleeson in About Time
The film begins with Lake at a disastrous New Year’s Eve party where soon after his father (the always dependable Bill Nighy), explains that the men in their family have the unique ability to travel through time. The elder Lake explains that all one has to do is find a dark place, clinch your fists, and concentrate on the place you want to go to. This also is a practical thing on the part of Curtis as it saves enormous amounts of money in the film’s budget.
Tim’s father also explains that you can only go backward and not forward. When a time-travel mishap prevents him from getting past the first meeting stage with the love of his life, Mary (Rachel McAdams), young Tim then uses the machine to reconnect with Mary until he eventually wears down her resistance. In several interesting set pieces, Tim uses the machine to avoid the problems inherent in consummating his affair with Mary and also uses it to set up his marriage proposal to Mary in his own idealistic way.
Eventually, Tim learns the hard way that some things can’t be perfected, not even with a time machine as he gradually comes to terms with both fatherhood and mortality, in due course. This is where the film works best and curiously, where some of the most saccharine aspects of the film’s story rear their head. Normally, I would be groaning at some of the more overly sentimental things that the film’s script thrusts upon the audience. For some strange reason, I didn’t seem to mind and it worked for me this time around.
If you’re a die-hard fan of Curtis’ previous work, then I would say About Time is probably something you aren’t going to want to miss. It fits neatly amidst the other films on his resume. I wouldn’t say it’s the best thing he’s done but it’s a welcome respite from the likes of Thor and other blockbusters littering the multiplexes these days and that’s saying something.
All is Lost (***)
The first thought that came to mind upon seeing writer-director J.C. Chandor’s impressive film All is Lost is how perfectly the movie would fit on a double bill with the recent box office champ, Gravity. Both films deal with similar themes, most notably the fragility of life and the human instinct to survive when thrust in to a life-threatening scenario. It isn’t a big deal that the setting of one film is the vast reaches of space and the backdrop of the other is the open sea as the basic idea is the same; life does matter. I can’t help but believe that viewers who were enthralled with Gravity will find All is Lost also to their liking.
The film’s story is a simple one. Robert Redford stars as a character billed in the credits as simply ‘Our Man.’ After an opening voice-over that has the character apologizing for failing those who loved him—we’re never told what those failures are, one of the film’s few possible stumbling blocks—we see him resting in his yacht, somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Robert Redford in All Is Lost
Our Man is jarred out of his idyllic existence by a sudden jolt, which proves to be a large shipping container containing lots of tennis shoes that has crashed in to the side of the Man’s vessel. Water starts pouring into the boat and the camera follows him as he scrambles to undo the damage that’s been done.
After a brief respite, Our Man then sails into a violent storm, which leaves the vessel in worse condition than it was before he attempted to make those initial repairs. Things go from bad to worse as the man attempts to make a go of things in a life raft and finds himself in a downward spiral of calamitous events (including circling sharks) that look as if the karmic forces of the world are punishing him for some unmentioned foul deed. One can’t help but wonder exactly what kind of failings Our Man was alluding to in the voice over.
One of the few problems with All is Lost is the lack of information we are given about the lead character; it makes the going tough at times. Typically, one of the requirements for good storytelling is empathy with the character. Here we are given next to no information about the man. That doesn’t mean that the audience can’t identify with his instinct to survive. I just think that with a bit more information about the man’s past may have helped things a bit.
The most compelling thing here is the electric performance by Robert Redford who at age 77 constantly impresses with his physical prowess in the film. To cite two of his more physical moments, he’s submerged in water and required to climb an extremely tall mast, something that would be a tall order for someone half Redford’s age. Add to that that the film is virtually dialogue-free and you come to realize what a truly great performance Redford has given.
About Time & All Is Lost are playing at several theaters in Charlotte, including the Regal Park Terrace Stadium 6, 4289 Park Road, Charlotte NC 28209, phone: 704-523-9771.
Questions or comments? Email Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.