A few weeks ago we were staying with some friends of ours, and the greatest question was asked: "Do y'all wanna watch a movie?" I don't think there's a time when I would ever answer no to this question. So, sure enough, the notorious thread of subsequent questions ensued. What genre? What movie? How heavy? How silly? etc. etc. To ensure that you actually get to watch a movie, this awkward dance must be had with the nimblest of steps, lest we trip over one another, and step on another's feelings, or grow tired from brainstorming-fatigue.
However, on this specific night, we were all in sync. It was great. Until someone mentioned renting Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson's movie About Time. I had no desire to watch a new McAdams rom-com, but, I'm cut from the cloth that would rather watch any movie than no movie at all. I mean, don't get me wrong... I love my wife and my friends, and conversation with them is always edifying and spurring. But there's something about how a film can so quickly capture your heart, imagination, and desires, and draw them all together. This movie, to much surprise, was exactly that. As another friend of mine said, "it's not just a rom-com. It made me want to immediately be a better dad and husband."
This one-part love story, one-part fantasy, and one-part drama does not confine itself to the mechanical telling of how two people fell in love, and then lived happily ever after. Instead, it surprisingly helps the viewer to consider how to more carefully deal with love, loss, contentment, and integrity. As the movie's protagonist, Tim, a time-traveller - yes, a time-traveller (give it a second) - first attempts to use his ability, he tries to manipulate his life in a manner that allows him to orchestrate the best possible scenario(s). However, upon realizing that this ability isn't as controllable as he once thought, he resolves to consider that it's really only meant to be used for one specific end - virtue.
As his story progresses, (spoiler alert) he gets the girl. Ok, maybe you saw that coming. However, the real spoiler is that he gets the girl early on. Not wasting time in storytelling, they soon have a child. Again, relatively early on. I only stress that because this isn't just some cookie-cutter romantic comedy. As the narrative continues, his sister, dad, daughter, and wife all get the same amount of screen time. In short, it's is a story about life with loved ones. It carefully reaches for the viewer's heart, pulling it free from selfishness, distractions, and apathy, and asks it "What will you do now?" It's a story about time.
The lesson beautifully shared through this genre-deceiving movie is to simply take notice. It inadvertently discloses the motives behind many time-traveling decisions as naive, selfish, or narrow-minded. The hero chooses to ween away from this gift, and live out an entire day, with all of its stresses, concerns, and anxieties, only to then repeat it, focusing only on the good of the day. After some time, however, he wonders why he should time-travel at all. You don't have to know everything that's coming, nor have the "perfect" day mapped out to enjoy the time you've been given. As the protagonist severs these super-power ties, we are left with the healthy perspective that we can alter the lives of those around us for the better by simply being present.
So, that made me think. A lot. If I, a once fragmented person, saw something beautiful in Christ's wholeness, and went to Him to be made whole, and thus now claim to be whole in and through Christ, why am I not presenting myself as such to others? Why hide such a desirable trait behind the false hope of the "perfect" setting? That dream setting that makes us say "Well, when that guy from work asks this question, then I'll easily share the Gospel with him." You know, the conversation transition that real life rarely ever has.
I, in my own limited way, can still try to make the perfect setting. I know the pains of this stress far too well. But that's not what's asked of me. No one in my life really aspects that type of setting or conversation, let alone expects me to be the perfect conversationalist... at least I hope not. Though we all imagine, the person in your next conversation knows deep down that the world is imperfect. So why do I waste time trying to become something, letting the present pass me, as I wait on the perfect (imagined) future. If we are in Him, then the reality is that Christ simply calls us to be.
At the end, I completely agree with my friend who said that About Time made him want to be a better man. It's not a romantic comedy, but a film of virtue ethics.