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The Time Traveler’s Wife (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 107 minutes.

OK for children.

Left wing TV commentator Chris Matthews said that the felt a “chill going up his leg” whenever he saw or heard Presidential candidate Barack Obama. I don’t know about a chill up the leg, but sometimes I see a movie and then think about it and I get a really upbeat, excited feeling about it, a feeling I might not have had when I walked out of the screening.

That’s how I felt the morning after while thinking about “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” which I saw the previous evening. I knew I liked it when I exited the screening, but the next morning I realized that I didn’t just like it, like Sally Field I really liked it, because I kept thinking about many of the incidents that took place. This is well done, but it’s not your standard time warper in the style of “Somewhere in Time” (1980) or the all time best “The Final Countdown” (also 1980).

Enormously romantic, it’s not only the love between the two protagonists, Clare (Rachel McAdams) and Henry (Eric Bana), but between Henry and his mother, Annette DeTamble (Michelle Nolden). Nolden isn’t in many scenes, but she gives a beautiful performance.

McAdams could be the best romantic lead actress extant. Her performance is what made “The Notebook” (2004) such a tear-jerkingly memorable experience. Her eyes convey such expression that she really doesn’t need to speak for the viewer to know what she’s feeling.

For his part, Bana is rapidly becoming a actor to rival Russell Crowe as the best actor to come from Down Under since Errol Flynn (Bana and Flynn were born in Australia; Crowe in New Zealand). He’s been vicious (2005’s “Munich”), funny (2009’s “Funny People”) and now romantic. Whenever he appears he leaves a memorable impression.

Henry is a “time traveler” who involuntarily is whisked from the present to another time, but always a time in his life. He always arrives at his new destination naked, which causes problems. Clare meets him as a young girl, but from the perspective of the movie, they are already married. It’ a bit confusing, but, hey, it’s a time warp movie! The viewer gets it as it goes along.

This could have had a lot of plot holes, but it is brilliantly written (Bruce Joel Cohen from the book by Audrey Niffenegger) and directed (German Robert Schwentke). The story is told in a non linear fashion, much as Henry is living his life in a non linear way. First he’s here and then he’s there and then he’s back to here again. All the time Clare is waiting for him. They have their problems but they arise and they resolve them in ways that are eminently believable.

This is a touching, romantic winner that engendered some tears (as good romances often do) and stayed with me long after I left the theater, a true test of a time warp movie.

August 12, 2009