Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)

Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Ron Livingston

Whether you agree or disagree, film adaptations of bestselling novels are, more often than not, tailor-made for their intended audience: those who have actually read (and subsequently loved) the source material. The Time Traveler’s Wife fits the bill perfectly, leaving all those unfamiliar with the various ins and outs of the novel in the dark as the film barrels through scene after scene of overly earnest and mildly unintelligible schlock. Herein lies the issue with the film’s shoddy script, plagued by a general sense of unevenness and startlingly lacking in cohesion regardless of the protagonist’s circumstances.

Both the time traveling gimmick and the reasoning behind Henry’s condition are rendered quite silly once unearthed, which is acceptable given how transparent the film’s intentions are, allowing the relationship between Henry and Claire to serve as a standard testament to true love and Henry’s predicament as an able-bodied metaphor. The question is, does the metaphor work? No, no it doesn’t, which is unfortunate but very much a harsh reality thanks to Schwentke’s scatterbrained direction that prevents one from investing emotionally in any of the couple’s various hardships. It’s almost as if each scene was filmed for the sake of just staying faithful to the source material, with time travel on standby to serve as a means of explaining away any gaping holes in the already thin and often ridiculous narrative.

I will give credit where credit is due in acknowledging the film’s likable sense of humor and the appeal each interaction between the central characters’ past, present and future selves holds. Said interaction isn’t much, as it only evolves into a mildly acceptable form of character development, so what we’re left with is essentially the strength of Bana and McAdams’ performances to keep The Time Traveler’s Wife from falling flat on its face. McAdams to me can do no wrong, and her endless charm is always a plus, especially when paired with the role in question. Bana, having fallen out of my good graces as of late, partially redeems himself here via exemplary chemistry with all of his costars, but the film’s overwhelming incompetence soon looms a bit too heavily over everything worthwhile it has to offer.

Reverting back to my previous statement, I’m sure fans of the novel will find at least something to like, but as a film, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a mostly unbearable experiment that seldom entertains. Yes, it’s a slightly unconventional love story, and yes, some of the characteristics that go hand-in-hand with Henry’s condition are somewhat intriguing, but Schwentke’s inability to cope with a piss-poor script and engross us from an emotional standpoint transform it into a complete mess. A sad truth indeed, but unless you’re a sucker for this type of overly earnest nonsense, I advise you spend your time a bit more wisely.

Rating: 3/10

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