Henry is a time traveler. Disappearing into time at random, unable to take his clothes or any object with him, running around naked can get him into sticky situations. He can’t explain it, control it, and has a rather loose understanding of it all. Unable to change the events in his past that seemed to be controlled by fate he finds the ability more of a nuisance than anything. Working at a library in Chicago he meets a twenty something girl, Clare, who claims she knows him and that he told her this is how they would meet. The two begin a relationship and Clare being aware that he is a time travel allows Henry to feel safe and normal for the first time in his life but the risks of time traveling at any moment puts him and his relationship at risk.
The film starts off as a rather bad romance with hokey dialogue and eye rolling lines professing love for one another. The film has a hard time deciding what it is for quite a while, not sure if it wants to be an alternate look at sci-fi or an epic romance for the ages. Slowly the film decides that it is a sci-fi film first and the relationship stuff will end up lending itself to the plot and the perils of time travel. Lots of good time travel ideas come out of this story providing twists and turns that will not only surprise you, but hook you in for what is going to happen next. The story even is capable of avoiding any major paradox to the best of my knowledge with Henry and Clare’s story being told from the perspective of Harry already visiting Clare in her past, since he returns to similar spots, and his time travel is random so he is not intentionally trying to make his presence apparent to Clare in her youth.
The film does start a little rough though and you may find yourself a little antsy with the eye rolling nature of a lot of the first third of the film or so. Its one thing to be a romance, but honestly the writing was just plain awful at times and the two leads really lacked any sort of real chemistry. In fact, the film as a whole really fails to really nail the emotional swells it was probably capable of. Full of a number of good moments, there are only a few that really stand out, and some fall flatter then they really should. It could have been the lack of a good sound system in my screening, but scenes and moments felt emotionally muted and there was nothing there to lift things to another level. Though, I still found rather intriguing and engaging, it just felt like it could have been far more engrossing.
Also, I feel like the makeup team could have done a bit better job at aging up and down the two leads, the only way we can tell if it is older or younger Henry is his grey hair and because he tells us. As for Clare she looks more or less the same throughout the whole picture and it is a bit curious as to why they didn’t try and sell this age changes as much. You can see subtle differences but I feel like a bit more could have made things a tad more clear and convincing, with that said the time travel effects were very well done and effective; so at least they got half of the time traveling effects right.
The first half of the film also feels very truncated and a bit all over the place editing wise. I know this movie has been kicked around for quite awhile and you really feel like the film is missing some serious chunks from the books, I just think this film could have been much, much, more as it has a really great concept at its core. A little more time to flesh out the characters and less meandering on trying to figure out what kind of film this wanted to be in the start and we could have had us a great little sci-fi romance to praise for the ages potentially. We are unfortunately left with a good little effort that feels truncated and falls short of what it could have been.
The actors in the film are both quite good at times, but even they can’t even overcome some atrocious sap that gets thrown in to the mix throughout. Rachel McAdams as Clare is stuck with the brunt of the bad dialogue and she fights through it the best she can. We get that she loves this man and will endure through this issue for him, but I feel like she was cheated of her fair shake in the story. Her character is helpless, and McAdams conveys that well, but she has little to do it seems. The film is really Henry’s story and Eric Bana does a fine job playing our time jumping lover. He brings an understanding to Henry without losing that sense of confusion and desire to have his condition stop, especially after his fate might have been thrown before his eyes. Bana has to wade through a couple of rough dialogue as well, but he comes out less scathed then McAdams. Ron Livingston and Stephen Tobolowsky are the only other substantial supporting roles in the film and both create interesting characters and relationships that feel incredibly cut short of what they could have been. You can tell Livingston’s Gomez could have been a great outlet for both Clare and Henry to explore their relationship and the whole time traveling mess that never really comes. But Livingston makes the most of it by charming us like he does so well creating as strong as a connection to his character that was probably possible in the short time he is on screen.
In the end, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a fairly successful exercise in sci-fi and exploring the idea of time travel in a rather unique way. Taking a bit too much time to establish what it wants to be and feeling rather truncated, the film still manages to suck you in though fails to really blow you away on any occasion. Kudos to the filmmakers for sticking with an ending that isn’t easy for the viewer and creating a coherent time travel story that doesn’t fold in on itself and create paradoxes. The actors do admirable job with rather weak material at times, but the viewer can’t help but leave the experience entertained but feeling like we missed out on something that could have been truly spectacular.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is a B-