Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger's book The Time Traveler's Wife has everything: it's intelligent and accessible, serious, fun, full of action and emotion, and it tells a great story about human nature and relationships while also exploring a well-worn science fiction concept in new and fascinating ways - time travel portrayed as an uncontrollable genetic disorder. I sometimes wonder whether it could also be seen as a book about the lover of someone with manic depression or another episodic illness who might experience a similar roller-coaster ride.

Robert Schwentke's film is a watchable and enjoyable romance that rises well above the average rom-com but falls short of the sheer resonance of the novel. Claire's life as Henry comes and goes is often bitter and painful and constantly tests her resolve and her love; meanwhile Henry's own life is painful and perplexing too, constantly leading him into danger and taking him away from Claire without warning.

The novel takes all of this to the limit, covering the whole range of experience, the highs and the lows of this unique love affair, while for the most part the film centres on a sentimental rom-com relationship. Occasionally it does go outside this comfort zone and into the much more uncomfortable territory of the book: the first time from Claire's point of view that Henry kisses her, and the way that this single act decided the rest of her life, is an example and the film is the better for including it.

The story is also simplified a little. The pretzel has a few less twists if you like (Damn you, Kate And Leopold! Get out of my head! Bad film!) although when you do get to the paradoxes and twists, such as Henry and Claire's unconventional wedding, or the way Claire manages to get around the limitations of Henry's vasectomy, they are particularly enjoyable scenes.

Casting is great - both leads Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana are talented character actors. They can do rom-com in their sleep and in the few scenes where they are given the chance they really bring out the pain and deep emotion of their characters in a totally human and credible way. I wish they were given a little more room to spread their wings. Did I dream that at one point a certain Mr. Pitt and Ms. Aniston were slated for the lead roles? It seems so long ago.

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