Though his last directing effort, The Boat that Rocked, didn't rock for some, romcom king Richard Curtis has come out of hiding for his third (and what he says will be last) go at calling the shots.
You’d be forgiven for imagining that time-travelling flick About Time - which appears to be a romantic spin on Mamoru Hosoda's anime The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - might err on the mind-numbingly bad side.
Thankfully, this enchanting tale that puts a twist on the familiar search for true love delivers beyond expectations.
Just after his 21st birthday, "too tall, too skinny and too orange" Tim (Anna Karenina's Domhnall Gleeson, son of the mighty Brendan), is let in on an incredible secret by his father (Nighy): the male side of his family all have the ability to time travel.
Instruction is basic to say the least: “Go into a dark place, clench your fists and think of the moment you’re going to.” Simple - for Tim, anyway, who takes the news remarkably well and quickly masters his newfound power.
For the true English gent it’s all about love, actually. So, being anything but a ladies’ man, Tim relishes the idea of turning back the hands of time to catch the girl of his dreams.
There are some rules. He can’t use his ability to change history, like "kill Hitler, or sh*g Helen of Troy", but he can revisit and alter past moments in his life in a bid to make better decisions. Which obviously doesn't always go according to plan.
Take his chance meeting with American love interest Mary (McAdams), a literally blind date which becomes erased when, frustratingly, he feels compelled to help out his landlord (Tom Hollander), a crotchety playwright on the verge of a breakdown.
But, hold on a minute. Tim isn’t prepared to the lose ‘The One’, so he sets about trying to woo Mary in true Curtisian fashion - through a series of awkward yet endearing scenarios.
McAdams is no stranger to life as The Time Traveler's Wife, yet despite her familiarity with the time-hopping thing, she still manages to make Mary both fresh and adorable.
But the movie’s stronger love element is between Tim and buttoned-up dad Nighy ("I don't do open displays of emotion").
Their relationship induces some heart-wrenching moments. Throw in Curtis’s usual smattering of loveable family eccentrics and there you have it, a cast with all the chemistry and one-liners necessary to take you on an emotional roller coaster of love, loss and laughter.
Of course, the standard space-time continuum questions go unanswered. But Curtis is no sci-fi nut, so forget about any insights into the realm of time travel. It’s just a hook on which to hang the idea of treasuring every day as though it were your last.
Ultimately this is a refreshingly moving love story in a genre that has come to feel a little stale.