‘Time’ ruins romance

"The Time Traveler’s Wife," starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams and directed by Robert Schwentke, is the most recent sentimental tearjerker to be released, with the idea of distance in relationships taking on a literal note. Eric Bana plays Henry, a man with a genetic anomaly that allows him to time-travel, though he has no control over his ability. Rachel McAdams is Clare, the love interest and eventual wife of Henry, who has to deal with his sudden and often prolonged absences.

The two lovebirds first meet when Clare is six and Henry appears behind some bushes in his usual time-traveling attire of his birthday suit. While this sounds a little "To Catch a Predator," it’s supposed to be a sweet tentative meeting of two individuals "destined" to be together. The film then jumps to when Clare is twenty- two and meets Henry in a library. Clare obviously knows Henry, though we learn that Henry has not yet travelled back in time to meet with young Clare. Confused? The film continues in this scattered vein throughout the entire movie as it tries to confuse its viewers into submission by jumping between eras and fashions. This attempt to mimic the feeling of disjointedness that Henry feels as a result of his time-traveling fails as it just ends up distancing the audience. Romance films rely on the evolution of the love story to drag viewers into the characters’ lives and the constant shifting of the plot disrupts this "boy meets girl" chronology. Viewers do not empathise or relate to Henry or Clare because we don’t see a logical progression of their love story. Instead we are given Robert Schwentke’s attempt at high-brow cinema with this inconsistent film that aspires to the intricate styles of "Crash" and "Memento."

Two redeeming factors of this film were McAdams and Bana. While both put in brilliant performances, their chemistry is not entirely believable. However, many scenes are quite powerful; the scenes about the couple’s quest to have a child are particularly emotional. McAdams is always luminescent, stealing every scene from Bana and his barely passable American accent. The romance in this movie subscribes to the fate/destiny/true love mindset, which may seem a little lazy. The tragic love story cliché seems to be engrained within every second of this film as the lingering looks and music swells at all the right moments. The idea of love transcending time and space (repeat to fade) is a bit trite and seems to completely disregard the complexity of human emotion and relationships.

This film was based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Audrey Niffenegger. One fact that explains a lot about the plot is that Niffenegger wrote the novel as a metaphor for her failed relationships. While Niffenegger may need to cathartically purge her unfulfilled Disney dreams through creative means, the film should not have inflicted her psychology session on the viewing public. In the film, Henry and Clare experience a literal version of the usual couple problems of miscommunication and distance, mainly due to Henry leaving in the middle of dinner to appear naked in some alleyway in another year. This sci-fi premise causes these relationship issues to be almost unfamiliar and, as a result, the viewer does not empathise with the characters because they don’t recognise themselves in the character or the situation. This is a critical component of a romance film; women have to imagine themselves as the heroine being swept up into the hero’s arms. If the viewer can’t relate to the character, then they won’t get that instinctive emotional reaction that these tearjerkers thrive off. "The Time Traveler’s Wife" was clearly meant to be a tearjerker but because of this disturbance between film and audience it fails to fulfil its potential.