Time Traveler's Wife, The

“The Time Traveler's Wife,” German director Robert Schwentke's follow-up to “Flightplan,” is a schmaltzy romantic melodrama that obeys no dramatic rules and follows no narrative logic.  The movie desperately strives to achieve the erotic appeal of “The Notebook,” Rachel McAadms smash hit with Ryan Gosling, and the supernatural mystery of “Ghost,” penned by Bruce Joel Rubin, who for this picture adapted to the screen Audrey Niffenegger's popular novel of the same title.

New Line/Warner will release their chick flick August 14 as counter-programming to summer's special effects, male-targeted fare.  At the moment, there is only one femme-driven film in the marketplace, Nora Ephron's romantic comedy “Julie & Julia,” co-starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, so it remains to be seen whether the latter will have legs in its second sesssion as both features compete for the same kind of viewers. 

The movie, clearly targeted at younger and older women demographics, is not badly acted by the two leads, Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, who benefit form appealing looks, reasonable charm and nice chemistry between then.  However, as an emotional journey, the story makes little sense, not to mention the fact that it's vastly under-populated in terms of characters.  It's hard to recall the last time a mainstream Hollywood picture was essentially a two-handler—perhaps “Entrapment,” with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones.


The title signals a sci-fi film, which this meller decidedly is not.  Instead, it's an episodic emotional odyssey about two people involved in a deep loving relationship, in which time travel serves as the catalyst for elements that strengthen, challenge, and test their bond over years of anguish, pain, separation, and loss.  In fact, it's time travel that brought them together in the first place.


Like other texts of its kind, the storyline is not dictated by chronological order but by the arc of the relationship, which here is rather stiff, calculated, and arbitrary. 

One of the busiest actors around, the versatile Eric Bana plays Henry, a role initially allotted to Brad Pitt, who (smartly) bailed out and is now credited as a producer. A librarian, Henry suffers from a genetic dysfunction known as Chrono-Impairment, which means he cannot be grounded in any particular time and place for too long and tends to periodically disppear from Clare's life, only to appear in other eras of their joint lives.

In the first act, it's established that the two love birds met when Clare (played by Brooklyn Proulx) was a wide-eyed six year old girl.  By the time they really meet for the first time, the mature Clare has known–and has been waiting for–Henry virtually her entire life.


We learn that time travel has allowed Henry as a boy (played by Alex Ferris) to miraculously escape death in a fatal car accident that killed his beoved mother (Michelle Nolden), an opera star, and turned his loyal father (Arliss Howard) into dypsomania nd drinking.  Almost at the last minute, and unwittingly, he transports himself into the recent past. Later on, he returns to the crash scene, where meets an older version of himself, informing the shocked, guilt-ridden boy that he has just traveled through time. This device also allows him to show up at his wedding, which seems bizarre and confusing, adjectives that describe the whole yarn.


Henry's anomaly proves to be mostly a problem but occasionally also a blessing. His time travels involve sudden appearances in the past or future, whichever way the  fillmmakers feel right as the device is used in a totally arbitrary way.  Since Henry wakes up in the nude, often in public parks, he resorts to hiding behind bushes, shoplifting, breaking into places, beating up people.   In short, he is violence-prone, a fact known to the police (which can never arrest him) and also periodically revealed to Clare and their daughter, who witness her dad in his worst possible conduct, when he collapses or passes out.

While not exactly fighting the situation, the couple does seek help.  Dr. Kendrick (Stephen Tobolowsky), a molecular geneticist, tries to help but to no avail, and the sequences in which he treats Clare's miscarriages are both touching and tragic since her main desire is to have a happy family life. 


Try as it may to interweave conflicts and undercurrents into the fabric of that relationship, “Time Traveler's Wife” comes across as a sharply uneven, often dull and deliberate journey, demanding the viewers of patience for better things to come, which never do.  


As noted, slender as a drama, “Time Traveler's Wife” is basically a two-handler, with only two or three so supporting or secondary characters.  For example, Clare becomes a mom, but she has no significant family or friends, and you wonder who she endures the recurrent hearbreaking separtions and eventual loss.   It's too bad for the supporting cast includes Ron Livingston, Arliss Howard, and Stephen Tobolowsky, all gifted thespians who are totally wasted because they have nothing interesting to do or to say.



Clare – Rachel McAdams
Henry – Eric Bana
Richard DeTamble – Arliss Howard
Gomez – Ron Livingston
Dr. Kendrick – Stephen Tobolowsky



A Warner release of a New Line Cinema presentation of a Plan B/Nick Wechsler production. Produced by Wechsler, Dede Gardner.

Executive producers, Brad Pitt, Richard Brener, Michele Weiss, Justis Greene.

Co-producer, Kristin Hahn.

Directed by Robert Schwentke.

Screenplay, Bruce Joel Rubin, based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger.
Camera, Florian Ballhaus.

Editor, Thom Nobe.

Music, Mychael Danna; music supervisor, Bob Bowen.

Production designer, Jon Hutman; art director, Peter Grundy; set designers, Elis Lam, John MacNeil; set decorator, Patricia Cuccia.

Costume designer, Julie Weiss.

Sound, Robert F. Scherer; supervising sound editor, Dave McMoyler; sound designer, Hector Gika; re-recording mixers, Michael Minkler, Craig Mann; visual effects supervisor, David M.V. Jones; visual effects, Riot; special effects supervisor, Alex Burdett; stunt coordinator, John Stoneham Jr.

Associate producer, Sara Moe.

Assistant director, Mike Topoozian,

Casting, Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood, Jen Smith; Canadian casting, Robin D. Cook.  

Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 106 Minutes.