[SPOILER ALERT: This review contains a discussion of key plot elements and events in the film.]
We’ve seen the formula a thousand times before. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl in the end. It’s a standard Hollywood set up that’s been used since the days of silent films. Now, take that formula and give the boy a genetic disorder that causes him to travel through time. What you get is The Time Traveler’s Wife, a chronologically complex film that despite its non-linear narrative still manages to entertain and engage the viewer.
Now let’s have some fun.
Yes, it’s a well shot, well acted romantic drama with enough comedy thrown in to keep you from becoming immersed in sappiness. For the women, you get to see plenty of shots that contain Eric Bana’s ass; the men get one shot of Rachel McAdams’s ass (although I’m not sure if it was hers or a body double’s).
Bana and McAdams have solid chemistry as two time-crossed lovers that brings up thoughts about the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock film The Lake House. But there’s something else that makes the relationship between the principals in Time Traveler’s Wife that just didn’t work for me.
You see, each time Henry (Bana) travels through time, he winds up naked. When he meets Clare (McAdams) for the first time, he’s naked. But she’s six. So, when Bana talks to her in from inside a bush, asks her for a blanket, then goes to shake her hand while wrapped in said blanket, the whole sequence seems rather odd. A strange man in his 40s wrapped in nothing but a blanket having a conversation with a six year old girl in a field.
And these are the two people who later fall in love.
As Henry travels around time, he meets Clare at different ages and their love begins to grow. Clare is adamant that she and Henry are destined to be married and fall in love with one another (which she has already decided at 10), and his frequent visits with her one-on-one just come across as Lolita-ish in appearance. From what happens when Henry and Clare meet when she is older, their sexual attraction to one another has been growing for quite some time.
After two miscarriages (since the fetus has the time traveling gene and they kept traveling out of the womb), Henry gets a vasectomy. Well, his present day self does. When his pre-vasectomy self shows up and contacts Clare, she has sex with him in a car. Clare gets pregnant. Is it considered cheating if you have sex with and get pregnant by your husband’s past self? Are you having the present husband’s baby still, or is it the baby of the past husband who’s still the present husband just with the ability to impregnate you?
Clare carries the third baby to term, they name her Alba, and all is well. That is until future Alba starts to visit present Alba and reveals that her dad will die when she’s five. Henry knows that he’s going to die since he traveled to the future and talked with his ten year old daughter who told him so. Now he knows, his five year old daughter knows, but Clare doesn’t know.
While Clare bathes her daughter, she asks her what’s wrong. Alba responds by saying: “Daddy told me not to tell you.” Probably not the best line to have in a film that has a naked man conversing with a six year old girl. Alba lets the cat out of the bag, and the countdown to Henry’s impending death begins.
So Henry eventually dies from a gunshot wound, and present Henry goes by bye. But past Henry is still moving through time. In fact, he can visit his wife and daughter in the future as if he were still alive. If multiple versions of Henry are moving through time and can appear at random wherever, does that mean that only one version of him is dead? And how many times does Henry have to die in order for all of them to be wiped out? Is there a kid version of Henry still traveling through time somewhere?
With so many recent TV shows (Lost, Fringe) and movies (Star Trek, Jumper) utilizing the concept of time travel, it’s no surprise that the idea would eventually make it into more female-oriented fare. I’m sure the novel goes into far more detail about his disorder than the film does, but this is to the detriment of the film. Since we don’t understand what’s going on we in turn are as clueless as Clare. This results in our own form of frustration toward the film and its narrative structure.
Despite the creepiness factor, rifts in logic, and the frustration caused by both, The Time Traveler’s Wife manages to entertain. The film is definitely targeted toward women, which is a change from the testosterone-laden films of the summer like Transformers 2, Terminator: Salvation, and G.I. Joe.
I recommend the film as a date movie, and also as a film that will generate plenty of post-viewing discussion.
Check out my review of the film’s soundtrack by clicking here.
Want to read the book?
Check out the trailer below: