Feb 102010
 

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a story, adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name by Audrey Niffenegger, that focuses on the romantic relationship between a time traveller and his wife (hence the title). And if that wasn’t a strange enough romance to begin with, the main source of tension between the couple comes from the fact that the main character has no control over when he travels, to where, or for how long; which means that making any sort of plans (even going for a meal or simply turning up for work) is extremely risky and generally pointless.

The film follows the couple’s relationship over a number of years, from both times that they first met (he first met her in a library when he was around 28 and she was roughly 20, but she first met him in a meadow when he was in his mid 30’s and she was only 6), up to their wedding (given what the trailer shows, and the film’s title, that isn’t really a spoiler), and a good chunk of their life after marriage.

The time traveller, Henry (Eric Bana, Black Hawk Down) has a genetic anomaly which forces him to travel almost without warning, something which causes a great deal of friction between him and his wife Clare (Rachel McAdams, Sherlock Holmes), and makes things like planning a wedding, or trying to have a baby, particularly awkward, especially if the baby might inherit its father’s condition.

The film moves pretty fast, as there’s quite a bit of information to get across, but somehow the pacing feels rather slow, particularly on repeated viewings. However that isn’t to insinuate that The Time Traveler’s Wife is boring, because it isn’t; it’s a very original and interesting take on a romance story; it just seems to cover so much so fast, that scenes often seem to be lacking depth and any sort of real feeling.

Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams both work fairly well together, with some level of chemistry evident, although they are not entirely convincing as it is hard to really imagine the pair entering into such a meaningful relationship in reality. Eric Bana successfully portrays Henry as an inwardly angry and very private person with all the emotional baggage of someone who has been hiding such a big secret for so many years fairly evident throughout, likewise Rachel McAdams’ Clare appears every bit as in love with Henry, and resentful of his darting off without warning, as she should be, really seeming like she is never sure if she’s with Henry simply because he told her that she would eventually marry him, or if she is actually smitten; the only problem is that the pair are never completely believable as a couple.

The film follows a linear(ish) storyline, properly beginning with Henry first meeting Clare in the library and continuing along their courtship, wedding, and marriage, with many scenes spliced in where Henry travels backward or forward in time (most often backward to see Clare as a little girl), and several where there are multiple Henry’s, or Henry disappears but reappears only being either younger or older.

With all that skipping about it could easily makes things very confusing, but thankfully it’s presented in such a way that it never once becomes difficult to understand, and although you can never be certain of Henry’s exact age or timeline, it’s always fairly obvious roughly when he’s come from (sometimes aided by character comments, such as a friend asking how old Henry is and telling him that he looks like a granddad), and everything flows surprisingly well.

The effects are top notch, and the scenes in which Henry disappears cannot be faulted, and even though it would have been interesting to see more of Henry’s troubles when he pops up naked in a city and doesn’t know the date (when travelling all clothes and money get left behind, causing him to break into places and steal what he needs), the filmmakers made the right decision in only showing some of it, so as not to distract from the main focus (Henry and Clare’s relationship).

Overall The Time Traveler’s Wife is a good film; despite the main relationship not being totally convincing, the pacing, and the possibility for confusion, it remains pretty engaging throughout as the main idea behind the story is very intriguing; and one that should appeal to all romance fans.

Picture:

The Time Traveler’s Wife arrives on Blu-ray via a full 1080p transfer that looks almost as impressive as Henry’s disappearing act; colours are fantastically rich and fare well in the multitude of different palettes used (from luscious green fields to a subdued grey winter forest, or seedy neon lights in an inner city back alley) and even in all of the different palettes contrast remains strong, and somehow feels consistent, as skin tones are always well presented, despite some over saturation.

Black levels are remarkably deep and inky, although there is evidence of crushing, and detail is surprisingly sharp however there is noticeable edge enhancement which detaches foreground objects and characters from the back, and does tend to make ringing an issue for the film’s entire runtime.

However, despite the heavy edge enhancement and the problems it causes, the overall picture quality on the disc is of an extremely high standard, and should please any and all fans of the film, even with the minor distractions.

Audio:

Just like the picture quality, the audio mix for The Time Traveler’s Wife (a beautifully crafted Dolby True HD 5.1 soundtrack) is a great example of Blu-ray quality and will easily enhance the film for anyone that watches it.

The dialogue, where any film of this nature fly or falls, is perfectly crisp and  clear for the entire length of the movie, with the many whispers and sighs remaining perfectly intelligible no matter what the setting. And all of the locales sound equally good, with rear speakers often providing just the right level of ambience; be it cars and people on a crowded street, the sudden shock noises from wherever Henry ends up, or simply staying deathly quiet in Clare’s lonely and vacant home.

The LFE channel is also well used, and has a good deal more presence here than in most other romance films, and while there are only really two scenes that stand out in terms of thoroughly head-turning audio, the dynamics, pans, directionality, and placement of all sounds is excellent (offscreen voices are often heard originating from appropriate speakers) and the dialogue is so well represented that this soundtrack becomes totally encompassing and thoroughly engrossing.

Extras:

Unlike picture and audio quality, it is the special features which let this disc down as there are only two inclusions (which total less than 50 minutes playtime); a making of featurette, entitled ‘Love Beyond Words’, which chronicles the transition from page to picture and is a fairly adequate short, although also fairly standard, and feels more like it was made to publicize the movie rather than give its fans a valuable insight into its production.

There is also a feature called ‘An Unconventional Love Story’, which consists of Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams providing an in depth discussion of their characters, their characters relationship, and the story’s fragmented timeline; an interesting sounding piece that works in parts but feels somewhat stretched and flat as a result, being victimized by the same studio EPK quality as the making of.

All in all, a fairly poor supply of bonus features that may sound interesting, but will be lucky to be played in their full length once, and are almost certain to never be re-watched by anyone other than novel and movie’s most hardcore fanbase.

The Bottom Line:

Summing up, The Time Traveler’s Wife was an extremely solid romance movie built upon an interesting and intriguing prospect that raises questions of loyalty, fate and true love, whilst never becoming pretentious by attempting to answer those questions or do anything other than tell a truly engaging and entertaining story; which despite sometimes feeling a little slow, it does rather well.

Picture and audio quality are both near the high end of what could be achieved with a film such as this (no-one expects Band Of Brothers style, ‘Wow factor’, sound sequences from a film such as this, but dialogue and appropriate effects are well placed and perfectly clear), and although the  extras are pretty disappointing, that doesn’t change the fact that The Time Traveler’s Wife is a well acted, well told, and well presented movie that does a good job of presenting an interestingly original, yet easily confusable, narrative.

Obviously coming from a novel onto the big screen meant that licenses were taken, and elements of the story were changed, and some fairly large plot points were also left out; hampering some readers enjoyment of the finished movie; however, it is an interesting film in its own right, regardless of where it originally came from, and almost all fans of the book should appreciate the way in which the cast and crew have worked to bring such a fragmented story to life, and should also enjoy the finished film just as much as fans of other romance movies.

A solid and interesting film that will appeal to any romance lover, and, being a brilliant date movie, should go down a treat on Valentine’s Day; unless it’s given to a man who only watches fight films and thrillers, in which case The Firm (2009), or The Hurt Locker might be a better choice.