The Time Traveler’s Wife Review

Robert Schwentke’s adapation of the best-selling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife is a sobfest with substance

Most love stories feature two likeable leads and a series of conflicts that keep the pair apart for the majority of the narrative before fate finally brings the two lovers together. In most films the conflict is based on race, class, interfering parents, etc. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, sees a couple torn apart by forces beyond their control. You see, the tall, dark and handsome man time travels. Involuntarily.

Henry DeTamble’s life is a constant emotional struggle. One minute he’s setting the table for dinner and the next he’s standing in a meadow twenty years previously. Another moment he’s in bed with his wife and then he’s being arrested for breaking and entering. Ever since his mother was killed in a car crash, Henry time travels to moments of key emotional significance. The most significant of all is that of his wife’s childhood. Clare Abshire spends her whole life waiting for Henry to show up. Once she turns 18 he stops visiting her and it’s up to her to come into his life (in his present) and sweep him off his feet. Confused yet?

The Time Traveler’s Wife is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Clare and Henry are clearly destined to be together but Henry’s disability keeps them from having a perfect relationship. But then what relationship is perfect? Their’s is contrasted with others in the film – that of Henry’s father and his lingering love for his late wife, Clare’s parents’ turbulent marriage and their friends’ seemingly normal marriage and children. Clare and Henry have more passion than all of the other couples put together yet although the film’s stars have great chemistry, they lack the spark that McAdams had with co-star Ryan Gosling in The Notebook.

When it comes to a good love story, I’ll admit it doesn’t take much to move me but Rachel McAdams’ captivating performance had me covered in goosebumps and I welled up on more than one occasion. She first burst onto our screens as Queen Bitch Regina George in 2004’s Mean Girls and jumped to the top of the rising starlets list following her moving portrayal of literary favourite Allie Hamilton in Nick Cassavete’s The Notebook. Since then she has played less than memorable roles in Wedding Crashers, Red Eye, The Family Stone, The Lucky Ones and State of Play but she is sure to find herself working with more top directors following this engaging role. Although we feel sorry for Henry, this is The Time Traveler’s Wife, not The Time Traveler and it is thanks to McAdams that the film works so well. She is enchanting as the young woman convincing the love of her life that they are meant to be together and she also excels in the more dramatic scenes where she wonders how much of her life she can spend waiting for her husband to reappear.

Fans of the novel may be disappointed that some big scenes were cut but the film’s running time is already quite tight. Screenwriter Bruce Joe Rubin of Ghost and Deep Impact fame did well to allow plenty of time to develop the couple’s adult relationship. A lot is packed into the film’s 107 minutes leaving would-be interesting supporting characters (Charisse, Gomez, Dr Kendrick) under-written.

Those who go in expecting an epic romance will be satisfied but any men accompanying their better halves may be disappointed with the lack of science fiction. Henry’s condition is given more time in the novel and some viewers may be left with a few unanswered questions. Suspension of disbelief isn’t difficult here however as it is easy to get swept away with the magic of the movie.

Emma Farley

Updated: Sep 14, 2009

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