Kosher Movies: About Time

When I was a young child and occasionally misbehaved, I remember my father calling me aside and saying he wanted “to reason” with me. That meant he wanted to talk to me about my behavior and show me the error of my ways. The strategy always worked. I do not remember him ever hitting me. On occasion, for some egregious act, he would say “I going to get out the strap,” which meant his belt, but he never used it. An abiding love for me determined all of his interactions with me.

About Time on one level is a comic romance. On another level, it is about the deep love between father and son, a love that spans generations. It is also about the nature of fatherhood and the value of living life fully each day.

I recall when I was first married, I did not think about fatherhood. I was busy trying to be a good husband and children were not on my mind. And then we had children and my life changed. I became more focused on family, my wife and my children. I enjoyed spending time with my kids, watching them grow and helping to shape their hearts and minds, helping them to navigate life in the light of so many different and unpredictable events.

The conceit of the film About Time revolves around a family secret that Tim Lake’s father, James, shares with him when Tim turns 21; namely that men in the family have the ability to travel back in time within their own lives. When his father asks him for what will he use this gift, Tim responds “to get a girlfriend.” When he finally meets Mary, the girl of his dreams, he gets trapped briefly in a time warp and loses her telephone number. Happily, he recovers it and uses his time travel power to orchestrate another meeting with her. They go on many dates, love blossoms, and Tim asks Mary to marry him.

Married life brings with it children, which further fortifies the love between Tim and Mary. Complications ensue when Tim travels back in time to rescue his sister, Kit Kat, from a life of debauchery and drugs, which places Tim inadvertently out of sync with his present happy life. The dilemma is unsettling, but eventually, the time sequence is corrected and Tim’s present life is restored.

In a moment of tranquility, Tim ruminates about a piece of wisdom his father gave him, a two-part plan to enjoy life. First, go through a normal day with its predictable stresses. Second, go back in time and experience the same day but with a positive attitude and with joy. After experiencing life with its peaks and valleys, Tim integrates this message from his dad and understands that life itself is a “remarkable ride,” and that we are in essence time-traveling every day of our lives. He feels no need to travel to any other time. He observes: “I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”

The Talmud offers similar advice: consider each day as if it were your last day. This means several things. Make sure each day is filled with meaning, with good deeds for others. Treat each day as a day of miracles in which God renews his creation. Take nothing for granted. Don’t do bad things. Don’t leave a legacy of hatred or ill will behind. About Time reminds us to live in the progressive present, in which each day is a day of celebration.

About the Author
Originally from Mt. Vernon, New York, Herbert J. Cohen served in the pulpit rabbinate in Atlanta at the beginning of his career. After six years, he moved into the educational rabbinate and served for 23 years as Principal of Yeshiva High School of Atlanta. In 2010, he and his wife came on aliyah to Israel. His latest book, published by Urim Publishers, is "Kosher Movies: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema." He may be reached at rabbihjco@msn.com.
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