The Time Traveler’s Wife (New Line Cinema, PG-13)

film_time-traveler_sm.jpgMcAdams is beautiful to watch and has a way of making you believe every moment of a scene, despite the improbable scenario.








There are distinct advantages to not having read the novel a film’s based on. I simply refuse to believe that’s necessary, although I sympathize with those who adore a book and set themselves up for disappointment by having high expectations of  the movie version. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a popular romantic novel written by Audrey Niffenegger about a man named Henry DeTamble who’s unstuck in time and can’t control when he will skip through the years, much to the frustration of his always-waiting beloved, Clare Abshire. I haven’t read the book, so I approached the movie as an obsessive fan of time-travel stories and a devoted fan of actress Rachel McAdams, who plays Clare.

Henry (Eric Bana) is a rather poignant character in the film. He first meets Clare as a young girl picnicking in a serene meadow (fetchingly played in her few scenes by Brooklynn Proulx), and tries to convince her he’s a time traveler. There is inherent confusion in the fact that Henry disappears randomly (sans clothes and jewelry, by the way…apparently his anomaly only sends his organic physical self hurtling through the years) and interacts with Clare at different points in her life. If you get too stuck on linear plot developments, you’ll miss out on the romantic tempo that’s the real point here. This is an eccentric but very moving tale of timeless love, of two people coping with the weirdest of weird realities but not letting that detract from their obvious passion for one another. "You told me this would happen, and I’m supposed to act normal," says Clare quietly after Henry alerts her to his hapless plight. It’s actually refreshing that Clare does act fairly normal. There are no ponderous discussions about the time/space continuum, or overlong scenes of disbelief, although Henry’s friend Gomez (Ron Livingston of Office Space and Sex and the City fame) justifiably thinks Henry’s a nutcase until he sees his pal disappear from his threads right in front of him. But Clare never lets her frustration, sadness or worry diminish the love she feels for her time-skipping paramour.

McAdams is beautiful to watch and has a way of making you believe every moment of a scene, despite the improbable scenario. Bana is charismatic and endearing as Henry, if perhaps a tad too low-key in his delivery at times, something that director Robert Schwentke undoubtedly had a lot to do with. But there’s a knowing little twinkle in Bana’s eyes at the right times, and his scenes with the younger actresses in the film, as well as a particularly poignant one with his mother (Michelle Nolden) on a subway, reveal the actor to be gifted with nuanced expressions and the ability to convey worlds of emotion without needing to say much. He and McAdams are well paired, and the melancholy that paints their every scene together only intensifies the romantic atmosphere that director and screenplay writer Bruce Joel Rubin was obviously hoping to conjure here. Credit for this is also due cinematographer Florian Ballhaus and the wistful, lovely score by Mychael Danna.

The film isn’t perfect, of course. It flies its "chick-flick" flag proudly, and demands a considerable suspension of disbelief to hit its sentimental mark. Grumblings on the internet about its deviations/excisions from the novel are also well underway, something I alluded to at the beginning of this review. But I fell for this story at least hook and line, if not sinker. It’s beautifully filmed, acted by two delightful, watchable leads, and confident enough to establish itself as being more about romantic love and the value of patience and faith than the sort of sci-fi trappings some might expect from the title. In that, it’s a sweet little gem of a movie, a must-see for anyone who counts films like The Notebook (also starring McAdams) or You’ve Got Mail on their list of favorites. Girls, you’ll love it—and guys, well, go see Rachel McAdams take another step toward becoming our next Julia Roberts. | Kevin Renick

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