Film review: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009), directed by Robert Schwentke
Based on a 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a romantic drama about a man and a woman who meet, fall in love with one another and get married – but not necessarily in chronological order. Henry (Eric Bana) has a genetic disorder (!) that makes him spontaneously travel through time and space. It first appears when he’s a child and is in a car with his mum, and they’re about to have a crash – suddenly he disintegrates and ends up naked on the roadside, watching the car crash into a lorry.
Ever since then he drifts in and out of time, and every time it happens he ends up butt naked and has to get hold of some clothes. Occasionally he finds himself arrested, but fortunately for him, he tends to disappear before they’ve reached the station. He can’t control when and where he travels, how far he’s away, and he can’t stop it.
One day, he bumps into the beautiful Clare (Rachel McAdams), who recognises him from her childhood and pretty much goes all fangirl over him. It seems that he gravitated toward her somehow, but he has no idea what she’s on about – those meetings happened in her past, but in his future.
They fall in love, they get married, they try to have a life together, which isn’t easy for them, considering he [in]conveniently disappears here and there and can be gone for weeks on end. One minute he’s setting the table for dinner before Christmas, next minute he’s gone, broken crockery on the floor. It’s incredibly frustrating. They try to have a baby, but as it’s a genetic condition, you do the maths.
It’s a sweet story, heartwarming as well as heartbreaking. It’s also a bit disturbing. Didn’t Clare’s posh parents ever tell her not to talk to strangers? Especially naked strangers hiding in bushes? First time Clare meets Henry is when she’s about six years old or so, when she’s in a field and hears someone calling her from the bushes. He asks for her picnic blanket, as he’s arrived without any clothes. Romantic? Try creepy.
He says he’ll be back, but next time, perhaps she could bring some of her dad’s old clothes? Sure, no problem. And so they meet up at various stages in her childhood and adolescence. She grows to love him, he’s already married to her in the future.
Confusing chronology and creepy (albeit gorgeous) adult men always arriving in the buff to meet with a young girl aside, it stretches the whole suspension of disbelief about as thinly as a coat of paint. We’re seriously supposed to believe there’s a genetic mutation/disorder/whatever that can cause you to disintegrate and end up in another time and place? I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that. Freak accident in science lab or something would’ve actually been more credible than trying to explain it with science. X-Men and Heroes can get away with genetic mutations, but this is just feels off.
However, if you can disregard the botched scientific explanation, gaping plot holes and the creepiness of grown men courting children (I know, it’s very innocent, but hey, that’s how it usually starts), it’s a very cute movie, making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
3 out of 5 childhood traumas.