Time fades everything: from material possessions to memories, nothing lasts. This we do know - there is a said time for everything…
For Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) that has become more of a reality than mere thought. Ever since a tragic car accident that took the life of his mother when he was only six, Henry “vanishes” into the past to revisit people who are no longer in his life or form a special bond with the small, precocious girl who grew up to become his wife. Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams) has been in love with Henry ever since he “appeared” in her favorite meadow near her home. When they finally meet as adults in college, she jumps at the chance to know and understand more than just a little girl’s fantasy. After a brief dating relationship, the inseparable lovers are married, much to the dismay of Clare’s friend (Ron Livingston). Even as newlyweds Clare finds she is alone more often than not throughout the early years of their marriage, including their first Christmas. During their tempestuous marriage, Henry and Clare somehow find a middle ground, both learning to cope with the frequent separations. In their rare moments of happiness, they realize life together is to be brief before uncontrollable events lead to tragedy.
For me, seeing this was a long time coming back at its release to DVD. The result of the movie both surprised and disappointed me. Unusual of my viewing habits (in relation to something of this genre – I nearly always have to know the ending), I had no idea how the film ended, what I did understand was that it wasn't to be a happy one. To filmmakers’ credit, they show us exactly what will happen before credits roll and that perhaps makes it a bit easier to accept, but at the same time more difficult with the expectation of tragedy. All melancholy aside, what really strikes us about this story (based on a best-selling novel) is the realization that there is no purpose to Henry’s traveling – something that becomes evident once we gain our bearings (the film is consistently more confusing than not). In chatting about this film with a friend, she suggested that perhaps that was the ultimate message, illustrating that sometimes we are forced to cope with difficult things that there is no earthly control or explanation of. That is one way to look at the message. Then, perhaps where filmmakers do fail is missing the mark in suggesting such a message – or whatever impact they may have intended for the film; learning to live with something that one cannot influence may not always be able to be interpreted in a skillful way, but I do think there would have been certain situations where this could have been expressed better. Similarly, not only does the basic story set the tone for a gloomy experience, but also the scenes nearly always represent morbid reactions. Unfortunately, the blissful times are all but fast-forwarded through, never letting us relish in the family’s happier times, only making us feel worse at the eventual outcome.
This isn’t a movie (rated PG13) for young viewers – for reasons that are listed at the footnote of this review. Mainly this is because of the movie contains troubling thematic matters that are more mature than a lot of other movies in this genre. I realize that is strictly my opinion, but I am firm in it. It has been difficult for me to decide just what I thought of this. Without a doubt I will want a second rental, hopefully with an end result getting my thoughts of the movie in order – it is such an unusual story. If there is one thing The Time Traveler’s Wife perfected, it’s a uniqueness about it that is rare in movies today. Sporadic scenes remain sweet, as is the acting, in general well-played. (McAdams is a fabulous actress.) Somehow after a fairly lackluster, slow-moving screenplay (no reflection on the acting), the end manages to leave you holding your breath, hoping Clare will make her destination in time leaving us at least satisfied if not completely “happy” at the climax. Filming where this scene takes place is lovely (as is the cinematography) and even if it’s not viewers’ ideal, the close does coax a smile. Not of the ordinary sort, but rather in realizing that the characters are going to be “okay,” even faced with unexplainable events.
This isn’t a sweeping film that is guaranteed to leave you singing its praises, but it, regardless leaves you with quite a lot to think about. The whole premise of the story may be disturbing to some. (Henry’s appearances and disappearances in various stages of life; for example, on his wedding, he is present as an older version of himself.) It will make you cry, and root for certain things, but rarely does it bring a smile. So long as you know what to expect, without having high expectations, The Time Traveler’s Wife is worth renting... Even if for no other reason than its ability to make us think about how fleeting time is, allowing for life to go on with little opportunity to cherish the beautiful in life.
(Cautions consist of several instances of partial nudity. Henry appears at his destinations nude. Likewise, Clare is seen leaving bed [a full, but brief shot of her back is glimpsed]. On their first date, Clare and Henry spend the night together [she begins to undress as they fall onto the couch. Clare becomes pregnant when meeting Henry from the past. Beforehand, the couple suffers numerous miscarriages, suggesting the baby time traveled. Profanity is sprinkled throughout. There is a short-lived fistfight; a man is fatally shot, with some blood [impact unseen].)