A place for reflection and introspection, communication and thoughtful conversation.
Sunday, 19 June 2011
MOVIE MONDAY - THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE
“His older self had taught his younger self a language which the older self knew because the younger self, after being taught, grew up to be the older self and was, therefore, capable of teaching.” - Robert A. Heinlein
At the weekend we watched the Robert Schwentke 2009 film “The Time Traveller’s Wife”. This was quite a popular novel and subsequently an equally popular movie, however, we had neither read the book nor seen the movie at the height of their popularity. The movie was on special at our DVD store so we got it and watched it to find out what all the fuss was about. A friend said that it was better to read the (500+ page) book as it was excellent and the movie had left her disappointed as much in the novel was missing, even what she thought were essential characters and plot twists. We nevertheless decided to watch the movie rather than read the book. Sure enough, classic books often make terrible movies, but so many classic movies have been made from good books…
First, this is not a science fiction movie despite its title and despite the fact that the hero is a time traveller. The film is a bitter-sweet romantic tale that one would class as a typical chick-flick (we seem to be watching an awful lot of these lately…). Second, I confess to having an antipathy towards Eric Bana, the male lead, however, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and persuaded myself to watch the film with an open mind. Third, the movie used the time travel as a metaphor for separation and its influence on a relationship. This I found gimmicky and a good storyteller would have found a more plausible reason for the separation without influencing the gist of the story, which really isn’t about time travel or science fiction.
In short, the plot has as follows: Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) has a genetic abnormality that causes him to travel through time unpredictably and without any conscious control of it. Adding to this embarrassment is the indignity of his clothes not travelling with him so he materialises in the past and future without a stitch on (this was comic relief, I guess?). Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams) is the love of his life and eventually becomes his wife, hence the title. Henry’s escapades through time are often dangerous, terrifying and sometimes life-threatening as he ends up in unknown places and times. Although Henry is a mild-mannered librarian with an alcohol problem he manages keep himself in shape and has some interesting survival skills such as pick-pocketing, street fighting and picking locks, all of which stand him in good stead in travels. After variable periods, he always goes back to his “present time” but for some reason (he sometimes) cannot influence his future and past even though he knows about it and has opportunity to do so. At other times he can influence it and does so (this is a nagging inconsistency). When he is 28, he meets 20-yr old Clare Abshire, whom he doesn’t know. She knows him however, as he visited her on many occasions ever since she was a child of 6 years. His love blossoms (hers is a given) and leads to their marriage even though it is interrupted by all sorts of trials and tribulations related to Henry’s time travels. One of his trips, however, will have profound and tragic consequences…
Superficially, this looks like a good movie but the schmaltz factor is high. It definitely pulls all stops out to tug the heart strings. However, I felt that it was all too strained, despite the good performances of both leads and the supporting actors – (OK, Eric Bana was sometimes a trifle wooden, but I have confessed my prejudice, so take this comment with a grain of salt and judge for yourself if you see the film). There was much repetition in the film and plot really didn’t go anywhere much (it was always in the same place but in the past, present and future). The strength of the storytelling was meant to reside in the emotional vicissitudes of the characters and the tale of their persistent and strengthening love even in the face of enforced absences and the unpredictability of Henry’s absences.
I think this is the sort of film that you will dislike or like, there is not much middle ground. I overall disliked, especially on reflection. The unfortunate thing is that I do not wish to read the novel now, despite being told that it is so much better than the film. This is the trap that many an author has fallen into: Allow your book to be made into a movie and watch your book die…
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.