The Time Traveler’s Wife

time travelers wifeI was the only single male at the Saturday 11:30 a.m. showing of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” at the AMC multiplex at Kip’s Bay, which, by the way, charges only $6.00 for the first show every day.  My fellow movie goers consisted of either couples, or women who had come to the movie together.  Had I wondered into a chick flick?  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I have liked many so called “women’s movies,” but unfortunately, as it turned out, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” will not be on that list.

Based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is a time travel romance about Henry and Clare (Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams).  Henry is a man who is unstuck in time and travels to different periods of his life having no control over where he will land or when.  Clare has to be the most tolerant wife ever as she has to constantly put up with her husband spontaneously disappearing for periods of time never knowing when he will leave or return.

As in any time travel story rules are set up:  Henry can travel through time but his clothes cannot, causing him to arrive at his destinations naked with him then having to scrounge up clothes (Clare is thoughtful enough to leave a pile of laundry for his return).  For some reason Henry cannot alter past events.  Why? Being able to change the past to affect the future is usually one of the more intriguing aspects of time travel movies.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” did not capture my imagination the way time travel stories usually do.  Throughout the movie we see lots of Henry’s vanishings, with the attendant clothes falling to the floor, later followed by his reappearances and lots of “I love yous” between Henry and Clare.  It is a great looking film, handsomely photographed by Florian Balhaus.   In terms of the cast, Rachel McAdams is charming and beautiful, as she is in all of her movies.  Eric Bana is fine if a bit too earnest.  However, for all the disappearances, reappearances and declarations of love I found the story not as compelling as it seemed to want to be.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” reminded me of the movie “Slaughter House Five,” (1972) which, similarly, is a time travel story about a man who has become unstuck in time.  The difference is that in “Slaughter House Five” the time travel has a greater significance and gravity for the character, and the story, than it does here.  Interestingly in “Slaughter House Five” the time travel effects are accomplished by creative editorial choices in which an event in one time period reminds the character of an event in another time period, and it is this visual association which motivates the actual time travel.  In “The Time Traveler’s Wife” time travel is accomplished with very impressive state of the art special effects, but with no story motivation other than the idea that Henry travels through time arbitrarily.

I had the feeling that the filmmakers may have had to compress the book too much and something was lost in the process, as often happens in book to screen adaptations.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife,” director Robert Schwentke, 2009,

New Line Cinema, 107 minutes, PG-13

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on September 1, 2009, in Now on DVD, What were they thinking?. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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