Based on the hit 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger , The Time Traveler’s Wife tells the tale fairly well. Director Robert Schwentke (Flightplan), brings Niffenegger’s book to the screen without any splash and hoopla. There are no great revelations and the film takes a surprisingly low-keyed emotional track given the time travel-entangled romantic aspect of The Time Traveler’s Wife. You won’t need the hankies or tissues for this one.
Henry (Eric Bana) is a Chicago research librarian with the ability to travel through time through some genetic anomaly. The episodes happen without warning and he has no control over them. Henry is a young boy about to witness his mother’s imminent death when the ability to time travel first presents itself. He suddenly finds himself two weeks in the past, still in her loving embrace. And so it goes. Sometimes at moments of stress and other times for no apparent reason, he simply travels.
Bana is convincing and earnest. Henry struggles with the ability, both a gift and a curse. We learn he has gone back hundreds of times to the day of his mother’s death with the hope of somehow preventing it and failing to stop it each time. Many years have passed and perhaps by now he has accepted it but watching your mother die hundreds of times should leave more of a scar then the portrayal brought.
A nice benefit for the female viewers of Henry’s time travel is that he leaves without clothing and arrives at his destination nude. There is a good deal of almost-naked-Eric Bana shots throughout the film.
Rachael McAdams, of The Notebook fame, also plays her character, Claire, ably. When she first meets Henry as an adult, the love beaming in her eyes radiates like high beams on a dark country road. There is no doubt she loves Henry. Through their trials of separation, brought on by his inadvertent time travels, she is seldom troubled. She is merely annoyed when once he disappears for two straight weeks. The romantic scenes play well and the chemistry between the stars feels authentic.
The problem I have with the movie is that a situation such as this should create a lot more stress no matter how much you love someone. Most wives get more than just a little cranky with a husband who is chronically late for dinner. Claire is so accepting most of the time with the time travel and Henry’s disappearances, it just doesn’t feel right.
Time has separated many couples in tales told on the silver screen: The Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher, The Lake House with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock and Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. Each film found a way to change the effects of time so two people can be together, not always with the desired outcomes.
All of these films caused viewers to feel something, to relate to the characters. The Time Traveler’s Wife failed to achieve that result. Without revealing the ending, it can only be said that the sizzling drama the previews promised merely simmered.