The Time Traveler's Wife
Robert Schwentke’s film version of the novel by Audrey Niffenegger is considered science fiction. And taking its premise into consideration, the classification might seem apropos.
After all Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) is a guy who travels through time. A condition that has accompanied him since childhood, Henry melts into the scenery at a moments notice, leaving his clothes in a heap and ending up in various places and various points in time. When we meet him, he is a tall, dark, handsome, brooding sort of man who drinks to deal with his “condition” and seems rather surprised to be so well received by a young woman where he works as a research librarian at a college library.
When we first meet her, Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams) looks like any one of our best friends. She bounds into the circa 90s library, all free spirit and perfectly coiffed pony tail and she seems to have a good head on her shoulders.And she is in love with Henry.
Which is the point, really, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is less about science and more a tale of two people in love. The whole time travel thing comes second.
Ultimately, it works. Schwentke’s film is beautifully shot, so much so one feels as chilly as McAdams, draped in a cable knit sweater, agonizing over the uncertainty of her future with Henry and just as quickly, it is warm again in golden sunlight draped across the meadow where Henry and Clare first met.
The special effects are an asset to the film, as Henry dissipates into the background almost naturally. Bana and McAdams have good chemistry not only in their love scenes, but also as their characters buckle under the pressure of their situation.
Which is where “The Time Traveler’s Wife” will make or break you.
On the one hand, the film is a beautiful love story with a magical twist. There is no question that time travel is the villain, constantly tearing the two lovers apart, putting itself in between their efforts to live a normal life together, threatening their happiness.
On the other, Henry’s condition, called a “genetic anomaly” with a degree of seriousness to rival a case of being lactose intolerant, doesn’t seem to faze anyone. Rather its viewed as a mere irritation – which almost becomes an irritation in itself as Henry’s incontrollable time travel puts more stress on his relationship with Clare.
In a beautifully understated scene in which Henry has been absent for nearly two weeks, Clare’s frustration mounts. “My life doesn’t stop because you’re gone,” she says bitterly. Suddenly Henry seems less a tortured Romeo and more an inconsiderate jerk who has a problem with commitment, leaving running showers, broken dishes and piles of laundry in his wake.
The audience, much like Clare and Henry’s circle of friends and family has a choice to make. Whether or not to love “The Time Traveler’s Wife” despite the inexplicable and unresolved issue of time travel?
Alone, none of the elements of Schwentke’s film would likely win over viewers. Bana and McAdams are good – but not unimaginable. The film is visually beautiful – but so are many. And the screenplay is a bit weak. It hits on the difference in perspective of the characters but leaves one wanting more. And it’s hard to tell if that is the objective. Because by the end of “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” that’s exactly what you want.
Ultimately, Henry and Clare love each other. He tells her he wants her not to worry and not to wait for him.
They love each other. Through time.
And love like that will leave you a little teary leaving the theater.
Three and a half yaps.