Movie #21: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Whoever thought that romance and science fiction could be blended so well together? Even though nobody’s trying to prevent robots from taking over the world or stop a global calamity, I think it’s genius that The Time Traveler’s Wife takes a classic sci-fi device such as people traveling in time and uses it to tell a love story. (Michael J. Fox may have come the closest by going back to the 50s to ensure that his mother and father fell in love.) In this story, Eric Bana plays Henry DeTamble, who all his life has been fading out of one time to appear in another time within his own life. As he jumps back and forth throughout the timeline he meets his future wife Claire (played by Rachel McAdams) as a child and sets his own love story into motion. What follows is various snapshots of Henry and Claire’s life when he appears and disappears (including an almost comedic incident where he disappears before his wedding, only to have his older self come back to stand in for his missing younger self). While I was fascinated by the way the time-jumping made the plot of the movie more complex (it must have been a headache for the director to map out), I was also wondering constantly how to interpret the device from a narrative point of view. Was it just another gimmick? (Doesn’t every movie contain a bit of time travel as the audience jumps through its characters’ lives?) Or was it to be taken as a serious sci-fi exploration in “What if?” (After all, they bothered to make it so that Henry had to deal with the practical reality of finding clothes every time he time-jumped and ended up naked when/wherever he arrived.) Maybe that kind of detail is there to give some harsher edges to the soft-focus sentimentality that a movie like this is prone to. Whatever the case, I think this film achieves a wonderful balance between classic romance and inventive storytelling. (4 out of 5)

21 down, 29 to go!

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