Movie Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

Time travel is a plot device most often employed in the what-if style of speculative fiction. Like: What if you could go back and kill Hitler in the cradle? Would you do it?

But The Time Traveler's Wife takes it a whole other way: using time travel as the hero's tragic flaw and saving grace, while telling the kind of dramatically romantic story that attracts women like moths. It's the movie equivalent of an Oprah book - full of feeling with just enough ideas to make you think about it (but not too hard).

Based on a 2004 best-seller by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife stars Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams as Henry and Clare, who meet near the beginning of the film an unusual fashion: He works in a Chicago research library and has a secret; she already knows his secret -- and has known him all her life, though he says he's never met her before.

The long and short of it is that, as the title says, he's a time traveler. He suffers from a genetic anomaly that causes him occasionally to disappear (leaving his clothes behind) and land in another time and place. He has no control over his comings and goings, though he's learned the art of breaking and entering in order to quickly steal clothes for himself (since he shows up naked on the other end).

Clare tells him that, in fact, the future Henry began showing up in a field behind her house where she played, when she was a little girl. He visited her regularly, becoming her counselor and friend - to the point that she fell in love with him. Now she gets the chance to make the relationship real, with him as a young man.

Except that it's hard to get a sense of permanence with someone who might disappear at any moment. That idea worked beautifully in the short-lived TV series, Journeyman, which had a similar trajectory and poignance. Think of it as a metaphor, perhaps, for contemporary life -- in which you're always being pulled away from family for work. It's life in the multitasking world where, with a Bluetooth, you can be here and not here at the same time.

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