D: Robert Schwentke. DP: Florian Ballhaus. W: Bruce Joel Rubin. Starring: Rachel McAdams/Eric Bana/Ron Livingston/Tatum McCann/Hailey McCann/Stephen Tobolowsky/Arliss Howard/Michelle Nolden. (NOTE: Based on Audrey Niffenegger’s novel of the same name).
Seriously…what is a world without books, but just a series of almost compelling, yet not truly amazing movies?
The next member of this group of ‘almost-theres’ is Schwentke’s The Timer Traveler’s Wife. A fairly inexperienced director for an adaptation of this magnitude, Schwentke ‘s attempt to bring Niffenegger’s novel to fruition lacks, ironically, a clear direction. This is apparent in an obvious miscasting of Bana as special collections librarian, Henry De Tamble. Hardly even seen at his job or in his life on his own, Bana barrages through the film with a ruthlessness that simply does not work. And regardless of the physical disparity between Bana and Niffenegger’s Henry, Bana lacks depth and the offbeat personality that makes him so attractive to his Claire, played by McAdams.
McAdams, just as stunning as ever, drives the narrative although her storyline is not fairly balanced with Bana’s. And although they clearly have chemistry let’s not forget both novel and film are titled The Time Traveler’s Wife! Yet unlike the novel, the film is unable to balance the histories of the couple and lacks a clear concept of how their two worlds keep colliding. For an audience member who has not read the novel, the first half of the film would appear random and confusing as sharp cuts simulate Bana’s time traveling, a condition not really explained until later on in the film.
And even then, since the film chooses Bana’s narrative as its framework, somehow a build-up to the couple’s romance and eventual life together is lost. The film practically begins with them already in love, and the rest of the film merely exists to explain why. These issues are rooted in Rubin’s script, a script that relies heavily on verbal explanation rather than visual clarification, both for the time traveling and romance. Which turns out to be hardly a compelling storytelling method as it also allows other aspects of the narrative to be forgotten.
But what is not forgotten, is Niffenegger’s novel’s emphasis on family and parenting as well. Without divulging important plot points, it must be noted that both the film and novel are both able to remind an audience and reader of the scariness of circumstances and the significance of parental/child bonds. No matter your background, childhood or current romantic situation, The Time Traveler’s Wife will sadden you with its complications, losses, and struggles. So bring the tissues, but be on your game as Schwentke has not fully executed this story and your attention and interpretation is vital.