THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Eric Bana, Rachel
McAdams, Arliss Howard, Ron Livingston
Director: Robert Schwentke
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: New Line
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: February 9, 2010
“I wouldn't change one second of our life together.”
The Time Traveler's Wife is an original, unusual, and moving love story that takes a premise usually reserved for science fiction and turns it into a device of wonder, romance, and tragedy. If nothing else, it deserves high points for creating rules for its premise and staying true to them to the end.
Based on the best seller by Audrey Niffenegger, it's the story of Henry TeTamble (Bana). We first see him as a child when, during a terrible moment, he disappears, reappears at a happier moment two weeks earlier, and then back again to find an older version of himself waiting to explain.
Henry is a time traveler. He doesn't have any control over when it happens or where he goes, but at certain moments, he simply phases out of the present and appears somewhere else; sometimes for minutes or hours, sometimes for days or weeks. Only he goes; his clothes remain in a collapsed pile on the floor, meaning he always has to forage for something to where when he gets where he's going and when he gets back.
He meets Annette (McAdams) in college. She knows him. He doesn't. How is this possible? Because Henry, in the future, travels back to meet Annette as a child. But for present-day Henry, that hasn't happened yet. But the currents of time have somehow brought these two together, and despite obvious problems, they fall in love. I suppose they were simply meant to.
Marriage always has a share of problems, but nothing like what Annette has to experience, trying her best to lead a normal life when her husband vanishes from time to time through no fault of his own. On their wedding day, present-day Henry vanishes, but a Henry from the future shows up with grayer hair and whiskers to step in and save the day in front of some very confused family members.
Even more problematic is Annette having a baby...are her miscarriages normal? Or are Henry's genes causing the unborn babies to time travel out of the womb where they aren't able to survive?
The rule the story sets for itself is entirely fatalistic; Henry can travel through time, but he can't alter the course of the past or the future. And I have to admit, I was surprised that the movie didn't take the route most would have and shed its own established rule at the first moment it became more convenient to do so. I'm sad to say, and it's entirely my fault, but I was robbed a little bit of the final emotional impact intended because Hollywood spoiled me to look for the obvious 'out', when there wasn't one, so I was caught off guard. That's entirely my fault, though.
The acting in this movie is first rate...both Bana and McAdams are solid and sincere enough to earn our emotional investment into a premise that might have audiences scratching their heads at later thoughts. Time travel movies always present anomalies and plot issues; but this story deals with them by simply ignoring them. That's the correct choice...this is not a philosophical or theoretical treatise on time and space, but a simple, sweet and engaging love story.
That's the secret that makes the entire project ultimately work. With a good story and strong characters, the filmmakers earn our trust and make us willing to suspend whatever doubts and problems we might ordinarily nitpick over. We forgo that and surrender to a magical and unique story where emotion guides us through potentially confusing waters to the conclusion.
This is a lovely high definition transfer from New Line...a few darker scenes show a touch or two of noticeable grain, but for the most part, images are sharp, clear and well-defined. Outdoor shots, such as the meadow the couple frequents, are amazingly crisp and beautiful.
The nature of the story doesn't make too many demands on the DTS HD audio, but the dialogue is clearly rendered and the musical score a nice and warm additional touch. Dynamic range is fair, and uses of the rear channels minimal, but a satisfactory and complimentary mix overall.
There are essentially two extras here; one is a look at turning a popular novel into a movie, and the other, a Blu-ray exclusive, focuses on Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams discussing their characters and the story. A bonus digital copy disc is included.
With strong characters and capable actors delivering a story that ordinarily defies belief, The Time Traveler's Wife turns out to be a surprisingly unique and involving love story that earns extra merit for remaining faithful and true to itself all the way through.