Monday, January 27, 2014

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) [PG-13] ***

Based on Audrey Niffenegger's novel of the same name, with a screenplay written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost, The Last MimzyDeep Impact), this is the incredible story of Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana), a Chicago librarian. Henry suffers from a rare genetic disorder known as chrono-displacement, a condition that causes him to hurtle involuntarily through time, often when he is in a stressful situation, and always unexpectedly.

While at work one day, Henry meets Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams), a beautiful young artist. Although he has never met Clare before, she has met his older self numerous times, beginning when she was six years of age; as a teenager she had already fallen passionately in love with him. As the title suggests, they marry, and attempt to build a life together and conceive a child. Clare's life progresses smoothly and naturally along a linear course, while Henry repeatedly and unexpectedly vanishes from her life, and then just as unexpectedly reappears. Clare's dilemma is her all-consuming love for Henry, while never knowing when or where he'll disappear, always being the one left behind, and never knowing when he'll return. Henry's dilemma is his passion for, and gratitude to Clare for being his anchor in time, while knowing that, at some point, he'll unexpectedly be leaving her. Despite this, Henry and Clare attempt to build a stable, enduring relationship, a seeming impossible task, given that they are often out of synchrony in their ages and experiences in their personal relationship, and given that Henry refuses to tell Clare anything about her future.

This is a fantasy/romance and the success of the film depends on our ability to suspend our disbelief, based on the performances of Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. For a romance to be successful, we must care about the two people, and this comes from observing them as their relationship develops. Unfortunately, because Henry and Clare's relationship is so non-linear, fragmented and uncertain, we remain dispassionate observers, not really caring what happens to these two people. For me, the most poignant lesson of the film is that love is deepest and most enduring when two people progress together along the path of life, sharing life's lessons and experiences, and bearing witness to the other person's growth and development. This is the lesson of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and it is equally valid for The Time Traveler's Wife. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, and you are intrigued by the possibility of romance across the boundary of time, as explored in films such as Somewhere in TimeThe Love Letter (1998), and The Lake House, you may enjoy The Time Traveler's Wife. Be cautioned, however, that this is not a happily-ever-after film; after you've finished watching it you'll be able to imagine a far brighter, happier ending, as I did. 

Labels: drama, fantasy, romance, space-time, tragedy    

Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 47/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=51, viewers=60)    

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