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 All smiles: Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams in "About Time"

Rupert Everett once described the director Richard Curtis as the Leni Riefenstahl of Blair's Britain. That's a perfect summing up of the world of Four Weddings, Love Actually and Notting Hill: impeccably liberal characters who one just knows have the correct views on the things that matter, a lot of somewhat forced middle-class swearing and self-conscious eccentricity, a noticeable absence of working-class type chappies but lots of jolly, well-intentioned inclusiveness all the same. The films are precision-tooled, often well-written and sometimes funny, and London, which has traditionally tended to look grim when used as a movie setting, always emerges as sparkling, optimistic and yes, vibrant.  Yet somehow you still find yourself pulling away, vaguely resisting what is so obviously assumed to be charming but which ultimately feels fake and smug.

Much of this comes down to good old class — not all of us find the upper middles as fascinating, endearing and quirky as Curtis. The milieu of his latest release, About Time, is just as well-funded as ever but is tinged with a bit of bohemianism, and while the young leading man (Domhnall Gleeson) is as inept and puppy-like as Hugh Grant used to be, there's an informality and classlessness about him which has no hint of the hidden, hard snobbery which one suspected lurked in the latter. So far, so improved. And there's also a twist, uncharacteristic of Curtis: the boy has inherited from his father (Bill Nighy) the ability to travel back in time and put right mistakes, especially of the emotional kind.

I had just come back from holiday when I saw this film and, having pondered the idea of chucking it all in and setting myself up as a fisherman in a small Spanish coastal town, was highly suggestible to tales of the road not taken. So sure enough, I was soon absorbed. Travelling in time is after all another form of vacationing from real life. And you do care about the characters in this story — increasingly my only requirement for an enjoyable film — and want it to go right for our hero. The device is used sparingly enough not to become absurd, there are no silly special effects, and when the skies begin to get stormy towards the end, we know that everything that could be put right will be.

And the moral of the story is? Quite simply the one which we've seen in movies from It's a Wonderful Life to Groundhog Day: carpe diem. Don't sweat the small stuff, look around you, appreciate the beauty of the world and its people, tell your loved ones you love them, for who knows when we will go under that proverbial bus. As a simple message, this remains powerful and alluring: a slight adjustment in attitude and life can be transformed. Gleeson is seen smiling indulgently at a selfish fellow Tube traveller instead of getting stressed over the irritating loud music. That could be me, you think. It's down to me, I could have that life, one in which anger is banished, where I never again have to write articles about anti-social behaviour, where I can agree with Gwyneth Paltrow that yes, it's all good. If this is what feelgood is, then I left About Time feeling as good as it gets.

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