The Time Traveler’s Wife may be about a man who uncontrollably jumps around within a certain span of time, but at its basic level it is a love story. A love story that unfortunately takes a rocky start with its depiction on screen in concern to dialog and pacing, but eventually it finds itself and the tragically beautiful love story is able to unfold.
When Clare Abshire was 6 a man spoke to her from the trees asking if he could borrow her blanket seeing as he seemed to have forgotten his clothes. Before disappearing again he promised to come back to see her. Ah the creepy start to a beautiful relationship. Years later after she has grown into a woman she comes across Henry DeTamble, the same man from the tree-lined meadow, but this time around he knows nothing of her. The problem is that at this stage in his life he has never come to visit her in that meadow because he is a time traveler, and thus Clare has already fallen in love with a man who she has known all her life but who has never met her before. Good thing time can fix that.
The film starts out a little rocky because it rushes straight into the relationship in order to catch up with where Clare is within in considering she has been waiting for this all of her life. She may already love him, but the audience doesn’t get to see that happen (though a little of this will be filled in later on as Henry flits around through the timeline). With Clare already deep in the relationship, Henry rushes to catch up, and before you know it they are in love. The movie is called The Time Travelers Wife after all. Because of this, the depiction of the romance is bound to be a little awkward, but unfortunately this comes across in more ways than it should. For starters, the chemistry between the two actors seems a little inconsistent and a little forced, with little help from the dialog they are given.
At this point I was starting to be afraid that Eric Bana is not quite up to par in concern to this genre, but when comparing his acting to that of Rachel McAdams (who has proven herself in this genre on numerous occasions) it became quite clear that a lot of it has to do with how his character was written. Not all, but most of it. For the first part of the film when he is not time traveling he is spending his time explaining that he is a time traveler to others and what it is like. And then this guy is supposed to be one of the most romantic characters in literature, yet during his first meeting with the girl he is meant to be with forever he practically comes off as a pedophile (because this scene plays out a little like this: “I hope you come to see me again little girl. Just don’t tell your mom. Oh, and bring clothes.”). But once the relationship moves past the actual wedding it becomes much stronger in concern to dialog, acting, and general presentation of the story.
Similar to Bana’s character, McAdams is given a lot of horrible dialog and cheesy moments to wade through when trying to show Clare’s side to the story. Luckily, once they are married and the full force of what it is like to live with a man with this condition finally hits her, McAdams is able to grab on to something and go with it. We can feel the tragedy of Clare’s story and the loneliness and frustration she is forced to endure, and I only wish there had been a few more moments like this other than a montage and two other memorable scenes.
It would have been nice if the lighter moments in the relationship had been stronger and placed throughout the entirety of the film instead of just stacked mostly at the front, but the premise of this film only really lends itself to the path of a tragedy. Not to say that it’s overly depressing, but there is a certain inevitability to the sadness of the lives they are stuck with. However, its how they deal with the hand they have been dealt, especially when possible glimpses of their future start to be revealed, that make it easy to see why they are able to make this work through all types of hardships.
When all is said and done, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a little disappointing because I can’t help feeling like Audrey Niffenegger’s novel wasn’t fully done justice by this film (though I am just assuming because reading the book is still on my to do list). The dialog is cheesy and the love feels forced early on, and it isn’t until after a big chunk of the film is gone that it really starts to find the story between these two characters. But once the tragedy of the situation is realized, it is hard not to be affected by it.
Final Grade: B-