The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009) dir. Robert Schwentke
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Ron Livingston
By Alan Bacchus
Despite huge missed opportunities to wholly exploit this wildly complex premise, ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ is an adequately enjoyable new age romance.
We meet our hero Henry DeTramble as a child about to get into a car accident which will kill his mother. Instead of dying, he disappears or teleports himself away from danger. He soon finds himself watching the grisly crash disembodied from the street. Shortly after, an older version of himself (Eric Bana) appears and tells him he’s a time traveller, and that his life is about to get really confusing.
Henry spends his life in very brief moments in the present before inexplicably travelling to other periods of time. These moments can last minutes, or weeks and once teleported, he wakes up in the oddest places, without his clothes, and scrambling to get cover. One day he meets Claire (Rachel McAdams) whom Henry had been meeting secretly over the course of her life. So even though Henry’s the time traveller, he’s the one confused and left in the dark.
Claire and Henry hold together a relationship for 30 plus years even though their moments together get interrupted by his annoying time travelling. Love prevails until Claire and Henry want to have a baby, which if it has the same affliction as Henry will cause more even more trouble for them.
I don’t know if there ever was a clear explanation of the rules of time travel in this movie, but I must have missed it. As for the cinematic history of time travel, it strays from some of the usual code of conduct – time paradoxes don’t happen, nor can altering the course of the future. They were clear about that. But the spacial dimension of travelling is murky. Why Henry always emerges somewhere neither too far, nor too near Claire is a headscratcher.
Where The Time Traveller fails is not in these nitpicky holes, or Time Travelling logic, but the lack of conflict and obstacles in between the lovers. Despite Henry’s affliction, it doesn’t seem to bother Claire or Henry too much because conveniently he seems to be able to run back to her within moments. Schwentke seems so intent on getting the characters together and putting them on screen to sell us a romance he forgets the story's emotional guts are when the characters are apart. The moments when Henry disappears leaving both of them alone is where the relationship is tested most. Unfortunately, on each and every occasion, Schwentke convenient cuts back to the moment when Henry walks back into Claire’s life to continue the interrupted conversation.
The unusualness of the relationship and the new perspective of two people in love does surmount most of these problems. As a whole the film tells the same story as 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' – a love story told on the macro level of time - two films, for better and for worse, with big ideas and big flaws.
“The Time Traveller’s Wife” is available on a DVD two-pack from Alliance Films with that other Rachel McAdams romantic potboiler, ‘The Notebook’ – arguably the most popular romantic film since ‘Titanic.’