About Time | 2013
With great power comes – well, not a great deal of responsibility, it seems.
When Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his dad (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family have the ability to pop back in time, you might think he’d be busy averting accidents or giving advance warnings of terror attacks. But this is Richard Curtis’s universe, so he uses the gift to get a girlfriend.
Hollywood time travel was about confronting Morlocks and Eloi, or going back to learn from Soe-Crates that all we are is dust in the wind. This is England, so it’s used mainly to correct embarrassing social faux pas.
The Lake family inhabits a Grade II listed building (and a private home) on the coast of Cornwall, in the far southwest of England. It’s Porthpean House, Porthpean Beach Road, St Austell. It’s south of Charlestown – the picturesque harbour you can see in The Eagle Has Landed, the 1993 version of The Three Musketeers and in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice In Wonderland.
The beach, supposedly below the house, is Vault Beach, eight miles down the coast, reached by a quite steep footpath south of Gorran Haven.
Tim, inevitably, leaves Cornwall for the excitement of London where there’s the briefest glimpse of Paddington Station as he arrives and an even briefer one – for no obvious reason – of the famous pedestrian crossing on Abbey Road, featured on The Beatles’ Let It Be album cover.
He trains as a lawyer in the sedate surroundings of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, near Holborn, WC2. The home of London’s legal profession, and seemingly untouched by time, it’s where John Cleese had his chambers in A Fish Called Wanda.
Tim and his pal enjoy an almost literal blind date with a couple of girls at Dans Le Noir?, an eating experience which focuses the senses by serving food in total darkness. Dans Le Noir?, you may be surprised to hear, is a real restaurant (one of an international chain), which you’ll find at 30-31 Clerkenwell Green (fans of British romcoms will remember Clerkenwell as the neighbourhood of Hugh Grant in About A Boy).
However, that’s not what’s seen in the film. 1 Newburgh Street in Soho, W1, on the corner of a photogenically cobbled street, stands in.
After having flirted with Mary (Rachel McAdams) in darkness, it’s here on Newburgh Street that Tim first claps eyes on her and immediately realises, in time-honoured Hollywood fashion, that she’s the one for him.
However, the evening spent at Dans Le Noir? means that Tim has missed Harry’s new play, A Guilty Man, which had its premiere on the same night. It’s hard to understand why Harry should be so grumpy when his lines are being spoken by Richard Griffiths and Richard E Grant (in unbilled cameos) at the venerable Old Vic Theatre, the Cut, in Waterloo.
The Old Vic, which used to house the National Theatre under Laurence Olivier, before the company’s purpose-built South Bank home was built, was run very successfully for several years by Kevin Spacey – before his fall from grace.
After travelling back to catch Harry’s play, Tim learns that messing with time brings its own problems as his encounter with Mary has been erased (though somehow he still remembers it). This in turn obliges him to rescue their potential relationship by engineering another meeting.
To stave off Mary’s liaison with another boy, Tim crashes a party at 26 Courtfield Gardens at Barkston Gardens, in a classy square near Earl’s Court, SW5, and quickly whisks her away for a meal.
The neighbourhood is hardly short of restaurants of all types and budgets, so it’s a bit odd that they end up in Bayswater, at Zorba’s Greek Taverna, 36 Leinster Gardens, W2.
And even odder that he then walks her home to her flat, which turns out to be 102 Golborne Road, W10, at the top end of Portobello Road market. This was the backdrop, of course, to the Curtis-scripted Notting Hill and Mary’s flat is directly opposite Portfolio, the shop used as the failed restaurant of Hugh Grant’s friend in that film.
The area seems to suit Tim, as he’s soon moving in with Mary, though London’s geography gets even wonkier when it appears that the couple’s local tube station, which features quite heavily, is Maida Vale, about a mile away. At least they’re getting plenty of exercise. It has to be admitted, though, that Maida Vale is a pretty photogenic station – see its virtually unmodernised interior in Neil Jordan’s 1999 adaptation of Graham Greene’s The End Of The Affair and its exterior as the fictitious ‘Westbourne Oak Station’ in the surprisingly enjoyable 2014 film of Paddington.
There’s a brief diversion as Tim attends a play at the National Theatre and bumps into his first crush, Charlotte, outside the monumental South Bank complex (pretty near where Hugh Grant – yes, again – bumblingly admitted “I think I love you” in Four Weddings And A Funeral).
Before anything untoward happens, Tim comes to his senses and rushes home to propose to Mary.
It’s back to Cornwall for the wedding, which is held in St Michael Penkivel Church, in a small village three miles southeast of Truro. The village of St Michael Penkivel, about ten miles west of the house and beach locations, was also the main location for the 2005 black comedy Keeping Mum, with Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson, Patrick Swayze and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The stormy exterior is the small fishing village of Portloe on the Roseland Peninsula, a few miles west of Vault Beach.
For once, the wedding is not the end of the story. it’s back to London to face the complications of parenthood, mortality, time travel and a career success for Tim in the august surroundings of the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand. It’s quite rare to see its grand interior on screen, but its flamboyantly mock-Gothic exterior features in Bridget Jones’s Diary and classic 1953 comedy Genevieve.