3 Stars - Engaging
Our inability to control time is the driving concept of an unusual romantic tale in Robert Schwentke’s film “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger and adapted for the screen by Bruce Joel Rubin (Brainstorm and The Last Mimzy), time is not experienced as a relentless tyrant which cannot be stopped, but a capricious jokester that can throw a person into alternative times at a whim. The person for whom time has become erratic is Henry De Tample (Eric Bana), and the woman who is a victim of his time travel is Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams).
At the age of six, Henry (played as a child by Alex Ferris) was in a traumatic event which caused a chronogenetic mutation to activate. Although that shift in temporal reality saved his young life, it threw him into an always changing moment in time. Though there seems to be some pattern to his time travel, as if he is pulled magnetically to significant moments and places, he has no control over when this will occur or what time he will then find himself inhabiting.
There are two effects of his time travel which are especially troublesome for Henry. The first is that his clothes do not travel with him, so he finds himself repeatedly naked in the most awkward of situations, forcing him to steal clothes from wherever he might find them. The second is that he cannot form relationships. Unable to stay put in time and place long enough to forge friendships or relationships, he is uncontrollably taken away. It is this latter effect around which the story revolves.
As revealed by the title of the story, Henry does come upon a person who captures his heart such that he is pulled repeatedly to her presence. This woman becomes his wife.
Clare (played by Brooklynn Proulx as a child) is a precocious heir of a wealthy family who first meets Henry when she is a child playing in the meadow of her family’s estate when Henry arrives among the trees. Enamored by this handsome stranger and intrigued by his unbelievable story in their most unusual encounter, Clare is visited again and again until she finally comes upon Henry in a time before he had traveled to meet her. It is this mixture of knowledge and relationship that creates the tension and the seduction of their encounters.
A truly original take on time-travel and its variant nature, the film does allow Henry to be in the same place at different ages, something the “Back to the Future” films allow as well. This adds to the tension as Henry in his thirties literally talks to himself at the age of six when the accident occurs to assure him (self) that everything is going to be alright.
But in its final analysis, the story is a romantic tale with love being explored from a new perspective. Able to love Henry at varying ages of his own existence, Clare literally is courted by the same man over decades, at one moment when he is in his thirties, and the next when he is in his twenties. How that impacts their love is a fascinating tale of love through time.
Discussion for those who have seen the film:
If you could see your husband or wife as they will be twenty years from now, would you want to? Why or why not?
The addition of a child, Alba (Hailey McCann at 10 and Tatum McCann at 5) adds a whole other dimension to this tale because the genetic mutation has now been passed along with an increasing ability to control the effect. What do you believe would happen to a family or a community in which time travel could be controlled? Would gambling and lotteries, as well as investing, become “things of the past?”
The commitment to Henry that Clare made as a child was both cherished and regretted when she became an adult. Do you believe she had a choice to be in the relationship or not?