Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Time Traveler's Wife

directed by Robert Schwentke

The Time Travellers Wife poster  
For the likes of Doctor Who and Marty McFly time travel means adventure and freedom. But for Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) it's a curse. He jumps back and forth in time when he's stressed, but he's unable to control when he travels to. Nor can he change anything that has already happened. What's more, when he move through time he doesn't get to take any of his clothes with him.

Henry is lonely and a bit of a mess when a woman he's never met walks into the library where he works and asks for him. Claire Abshire (Rachel McAdams) claims to know him very well indeed, and they soon develop a bond. But should she get attached to him, when his condition is often very debilitating. Claire's friend Gomez (Ron Livingston) thinks she would be better off without him in her life. And should she be worried because there's no evidence of Henry time-travelling after he reaches his late 40s?

This movie uses time travel as a clear metaphor for illness, giving it resonance for anyone who has suffered with a serious, long-term condition, or who knows anyone who does. It's a sweet story, with touches of mild humour throughout. But it's also a serious and intimate depiction of family life under the stresses and strains of a condition Henry can't control. The acting is believable, and in spite of the time travel the story has a down-to-earth quality about it. Above all, though, this movie is a weepy.

For some viewers The Time Traveler's Wife will be time travel with all the fun taken out. Since Henry can't change the past, no matter how hard he tries, there's none of the drama of problems with causality, the danger of changing history, causing ripples in time, or all of the usual adventure. Instead everything that happens seems to be fated, to the extent that the characters barely act as though they have any free will at all. They think they know something of their futures, so they don't behave as though they have much of a choice in the present. I found this type of reaction to be the least convincing part of the story.

The Time Traveler's Wife is interesting because it takes a fresh look at the time-travel sub-genre rather than retreading the usual themes. However, it certainly doesn't have universal appeal. The tone is very feminine, touchy-feely, slow and emotional. If your tastes stretch to bittersweet portraits of family life, and you're not averse to a few under-dressed views of Eric Bana, then you might enjoy this movie.

5th May 2010

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

If you like this, try:

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button cover    

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button by David Fincher
What would it be like to be born old, and age in reverse?

The Time Machine cover    

The Time Machine by Simon Wells
An adaptation of the novel by H.G. Wells.

Primer cover    

Primer by Shane Carruth
A couple of engineers build a machine in their garage which turns out to have astonishing powers.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson