More to the film’s credit, the love story isn’t solely about getting these two together as that happens by roughly the film’s midpoint. It then goes where few rom-coms do: the lovebirds building a life together. And while most of that remains largely romanticized, it’s refreshing to follow the path much further than most films allow.

The ups-and-downs that follow, however, seem too contrived. Just when everything is going beautifully, some unexpected event comes along to disrupt the happily ever after. Muting the gravity of these moments is realizing that, hey, Tim can just go back in time and divert the blindside. Granted, as more rules of time travel are revealed they end up creating difficult either/or choices for Tim, but usually they involve people and circumstances external to his relationship with Mary. Their destiny is never really in question, and even after the hard choices are made other real-life solutions quickly present themselves.

Ultimately, the truly hard choices Tim must face involve his dad. They’re the only ones that require some level of legitimate loss, regardless of the choice made. And that, in part, is why their storyline resonates in a way the rest of the film never does. It has weight and consequence. 

Furthermore, actors Gleeson and Nighy have a very strong chemistry as father and son that Gleeson and McAdams never have romantically. Individually, the two love interests have their own endearing charms and are appealing in their own right, but together they lack that intangible spark that can’t be manufactured even by the best performances (and why the earnest indie soundtrack is employed to overcompensating excess).

And in the end, the lessons Tim learns from his very unique gift of time travel are, well, just generic sentimental pablum. Relish every moment. No regrets. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

Take those risks. Follow those dreams. Live in a way where you don’t desire a do-over. Good reminders, sure, but no new insights. The message, you could say, is just like the movie: it’s not bad, but it’s not special.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Alcohol is consumed casually at parties. A few moments of cigarette smoking.
  • Language/Profanity: Four F-words, five S-words, two A-words. one B-word, one H-word, two sexual/vulgar slang words, two middle fingers, and three uses of the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Scenes of sexual content and undressing, but never full nudity. A couple undresses in bedroom, pre-sex. Bra is removed (no breasts seen). No actual sex shown. Couple in bed post-sex on a few occasions, naked bodies covered by bed sheets. Another moment when a woman undresses (no full nudity). Topless woman covers breasts with hands. Two spoken references to oral sex. A lesbian character is briefly introduced. Some flirting between men and women. Kissing. A woman in a bikini.
  • Violence/Other: A car crash. The physical results of domestic abuse is seen. A woman in labor.

*This Article First Published 11/1/13