The Time Traveler’s Wife

Aug 19, 2009 at 12:00 am

Romance movies have gotten so predictable that the fantasy contrivance centering this handsome adaptation of Audrey Niffelgener's bestseller, feels fresh, if not silly. 

Eric Bana is Henry, born with a truly bizarre genetic disorder dubbed "chrono impairment" which sometimes sees him fade out of time, popping into some other moment in his life, naked and confused, like Bana's character in The Hulk. The lovely Claire (Rachel McAdams) is the one constant in this fractured existence, and she becomes his lifeline and her unattainable dream (and you thought your boyfriend was unreliable).

Finding continuity here, among the unraveling threads of time, is a nightmare, and you're never sure what characters know at any given moment. Yeah, the plot has enough holes to fill the Albert Hall, but it's ultimately the core relationship that counts, and the well-matched leads hold the pieces together. Bana adds brains and richness to Henry that's not on the page, and, though McAdams too often resorts to cutesy "aw shucks" stares, she's so radiant, and the camera loves her so much, that you forgive her. Workmanlike direction by Robert Schwentke is stable but short on the swooping melodrama a story like this demands, and perhaps that's a good thing. In the hands of, say, The Notebook's Nick Cassavetes, the story's fluffier elements would've dissipated like cotton candy in rain, but here the sap is nicely contained. It's far from perfect, but The Time Traveler's Wife allows us to consider why we choose the people we love, and, once we do, why every second counts.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].