The Time Traveler's Wife Thomas Schwentke

The Time Traveler's Wife Thomas Schwentke
Almost everything about this film adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's bestselling novel, from its astute source omissions and alterations to its narrative flow, right down to the poster art, which shows a complacent Henry (Eric Bana) nestling into Clare's (Rachel McAdams) back as she looks out at us with a knowing look of resignation and ambivalence, is near perfection, conceptually speaking. Aside from director Thomas Schwentke's noble efforts to avoid the cloying, inadvertently creating occasional coldness, there isn't anything ostensibly wrong with The Time Traveler's Wife, but for some reason it doesn't work. The biggest obstacle is that of the central hook, or narrative conceit, wherein this love story — metaphorically that of mortal acceptance — focuses on a romance, as Henry bounces around through time meeting Clare at different points in her linear life while he changes age and degrees of maturity. Where a novel affords the benefit of framing each meeting with exposition and titles, giving the reader a chance to reflect and catch up, a film stays within the moment at all times, losing the viewer the moment they try and establish Henry's age versus Clare's feelings and where they are in time. In the thoughtfully assembled interview supplement included with the DVD, screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) and Schwentke discuss this challenge with a keen insight and self-awareness, noting their efforts to follow an emotional trajectory as a means of avoiding this central plight. It doesn't quite work but some decisions, such as Clare's manipulation of her time travelling hubby's condition to use his younger body to get pregnant after he has had a vasectomy in the future, are smart, humanizing and character shaping in ways beyond that of the source material. Another decision made is that of scientific avoidance, as the latter part of the film deals with fatalistic inevitability and a struggle that is essentially an effort to disprove God. Of course, this is never discussed or presented, seeing as the audience has enough to wade through with the love story and complex characterizations alone. While implicitly flawed, this tale of doomed affection beyond time and death does smartly reflect the power of first love and the profound effect of its inevitable end, juxtaposing anxieties of our own mortality and the realization that everything in life eventually ends. (Alliance)