‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ goes nowhere

2009-09-14 00:00

THE fantasy of time travel is well suited to the medium of film. Editing can move us instantly through time and space. Importantly though, the resultant gaps in time are imagined by the audience, allowing them to be co-creators. The Time Traveler’s Wife has echoes of the brilliant French New Wave film La Jetée (1962), but lacks the substance. It glosses over the potential trauma of a protagonist thrust forward and backwards through various moments in his life. Rather it attempts to fashion a romantic drama through an elaborate yet implausible premise.

The first act of the film is a mess and this is possibly due to the in vogue trend of portraying fantasy as gritty reality. Time travel is simply explained away as a genetic flaw. This may work for a series like Heroes where characters battle with mutation, but in this film the audience is likely to struggle trying to piece together which fragment of time goes where. The result is that the pacing and rhythm of the film are uneven. Dramatic scenes with import appear out of the blue alongside the overly used device of seeing Henry (Eric Bana) time-travel and arrive naked at different moments in his life. Is this supposed to be funny or tragic?

By the second act, the film settles into convention as we see Henry marry his sweetheart. The ever- present danger that he will suddenly disappear from the present, which is set up as the central conflict in the story, is negated when he time-travels to a younger version of his wife Clare and explains his condition. Younger versions of him are also able to travel forward in time, and so his wife begins wondering if she is a bigamist, fighting with an older version and making love to a younger version. Remarkably, his angelic wife Clare, played by the beautiful Rachel McAdams, takes this all in her stride. No doubt love conquers all.

Of course, the relationship anomalies are not enough to sustain the dramatic thrust of the story and Henry’s impending death becomes the key concern of the later parts of the film. But then we discover that younger versions of him are able to travel into the time after his death. So what’s the point? I am not sure, but one pearl of wisdom that the film shares is that you should not drink as this can make you travel through time. Now that’s something I can understand. **


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