Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Rated: 12A
Release Date: August 14, 2009

Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams

Rating: 4/5

The highly-anticipated big-screen adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s best-selling novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, is finally released this week to critics and cinemagoers alike.

Clare Abshire has been in love with Henry DeTamble since she was 6 and he was 36. Henry fell in love with Clare when he was 28 and she was 20. Sounds complicated, right? You wouldn’t be far off. Henry has a rare genetic disorder which causes him to time travel to the past and future at any given time. He can’t control when he goes or for how long, and all Clare can do is wait in the present, getting on with her own life, wondering when he’ll return to her.

While this film was never going to be as successful and well-presented as the book, director Robert Schwentke’s version is a pleasant surprise. For a film attempting to condense a 500-page novel into less than two hours, the result is unexpectedly refreshing. All the major twists and turns of Henry and Clare’s lives from the book are there and accounted for (including the question of whether Henry will be present for his wedding; fertility issues; and plans for the future) to create a story focused more on the relationship and love between the two characters rather than the sci-fi specifics.

Eric Bana (Munich, The Hulk) and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Mean Girls) are cast perfectly as the time-crossed lovers: With Bana’s charm and good looks, and McAdams’ feistiness and intelligence, the pair come together to create a love story not without its faults. While Hollywood romances would have us believe that true love poses one dilemma which can be easily resolved before the end credits, Henry and Clare’s relationship is constantly filled with reminders that no romance is ever perfect and is quick to teach young lovers that being together is about sacrifice and compromise when problems occur.

Clare’s loneliness at being left behind and Henry’s frustration at missing important events is distressing to watch. We feel for McAdams as she sits alone at yet another dinner for two, and we worry for Bana as he is thrown across time into hazardous situations. (Though the fact that he travels naked isn’t too bad a sight for us, for him it poses danger in broad daylight on a Chicago street.)

While The Time Traveler’s Wife has included all the important elements of the story, it’s missing one vital ingredient: the ‘falling in love’ part. Again, while it’s obvious that no novel can be completely transferred to screen in its entirety, what seems to be missing from the film are those crucial moments that show us why Clare and Henry are in love in the first place. Clare is quick to proclaim that she has “been in love with Henry [her] whole life” but where is the evidence? The film lacks enough flashback scenes to see the teenage Clare fall for the handsome stranger who travels through time to her back garden. Furthermore, when present Henry finally meets Clare, it feels almost as though he just takes her word for the fact that they’re supposed to be together.

Though the film’s inclusion of the twists and turns in Henry and Clare’s relationship is flawless, it’s lacking those scenes that could have done with one or two more intimate moments to give their love that extra something.

Having said that, however, what may be missing from the script is made up for by the heartbreaking performances of Bana and McAdams as their characters face the reality of the situation they’re heading for. The combination of the effective performances and the compressed story also distracts us from the fact that these actors are supposed to be aging over a span of twenty years – a task which seems impossible but is pulled off because of how fast-paced the scenes are.

Though the ending is slightly different from the book, it works for the mood that the film creates, and leaves us with a satisfied, albeit weepy, feeling.

The Time Traveler’s Wife might feel quite ‘Hollywood’ at times with its sickly, sweet focus on the love story but it works because it avoids what could have ended as a depressing tale. We shed our tears instead for two people, desperate to be together, torn apart by forces stronger than them. The story is fulfilling and romantic, heart-wrenching and raw. So make sure you take plenty of tissues with you and let yourself get swept away by some good old-fashioned sentiment.  


Melody said...

Great review, Ceri! I enjoyed reading your thoughts! The movie sounds lovely and I can't wait to read the book and watch this one!!

Mary Campbell said...

I wasn't sure I wanted to see the movie until I read your review. It does sound really good.

Natascha De Marco said...

I really liked the movie too ^^

I did a review for it today, if you would like to read it..

Ceri said...

Mel - Thank you :-) Like I said before, I don't know whether it's better to read the book first or after you've seen the film. You definitely appreciate the story on more levels after reading it and completely notice what's missing from the film.

Mary - Thanks. It is good. It's not great but it's very good and worth watching. :-)

Taschima - Glad you liked it. I'll definitely be checking out your review today.

Faye( Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm) said...

this movie looks really good. I hear the book is good 2 :D

Ceri said...

Faye - Yup. The film is good. The book is fantastic. I recommend them both. :-)

Lauren said...

EXCELLENT review! I 100% agree. It was a sweet film - it lived up to the book nicely, leaving most in. Naturally, wasn't as good, but a decent adaptation.

Also - Eric Bana is pretty hot. Just wanted to throw that out there. :)

Ceri said...

Lauren - Thank you :-D And I 100% agree with you on Eric Bana - I love that man so much. Fabulous actor and any chance to see him naked (TTTW, Munich) is welcomed by me :-D