Hopefully most film fans realise that The Time Traveler's Wife was a book before it was a movie. And though I'm not a book reviewer, let me just state for the record that it is one of the best novels I've ever read - just not specifically chick lit. The film, however, highlights the romantic aspects of the book for the female viewers, casting as the spontaneous time-traveler, Henry, the gorgeous and soulful Eric Bana. Well cast as his beautiful wife, Clare, is Rachel McAdams. Henry has a genetic defect (or challenge, one might say) that causes him to leap without warning into random dates within his own lifespan, and that of his wife. This is how he meets Clare. He finds himself flung into a date in her young childhood - she's about six, on the grounds of her wealthy family home. It's one of my favourite scenes ... when she runs into him in the library where he works and she's practically throwing herself into his arms, but he, having not yet travelled to her past in his own chronology, has no idea who she is.

Awkwardly enough, he never time-travels with his clothes - they always get left behind, so wherever he ends up, he's there nude. Now, this could get weird when a naked grown man encounters a young girl, but he modestly hides behind a rock while she gamely runs off to fetch him some of her father's clothes. Since he doesn't pop into the past in any chronological order in his or her life, he sometimes visits her when she's a teenager, at different points in her childhood and of course when she's an adult. So, (and this is pretty hard to explain but makes total sense in the book though is a little harder to follow in the movie) by the time Henry meets her for the first time in his own chronological life, she has already grown up knowing him, has fallen in love with him, and as young woman, already made love to him. It's one of my favourite scenes, both in the book and the movie, when she runs into him in the library where he works and she's practically throwing herself into his arms, but he, having not yet travelled to her past in his own chronology, has no idea who she is. She has to explain to him that in his future, he will travel back to meet her many, many times. He, of course, falls in love with her and they marry. Stressful situations seem to cause him to time-travel so on their wedding day he disappears just before the ceremony. Conveniently, the Henry of about 15 years in the future pops in and is able to take his younger self's place, though Clare's family wonders why the previously young Henry now seems oddly older. On their wedding night, he once again slips out of her arms and fades into the ether, and she realises that this will be their life together - him disappearing without notice at random and sometimes crucial moments. While she suffers with this odd lifestyle, they also benefit by him being able to win lotteries that he knows are coming up, though he can't do it too often without it seeming suspicious. This allows Clare to spend her time with her art and not have to work. Henry's coworkers at the library come to understand his bizarre malady, though it is only those very close to the couple who know.
And poor Henry, in the meantime, sometimes ends up in some very dangerous situations: naked, vulnerable, suddenly appearing in the middle of traffic or in a stranger's house because his travels have no particular rhyme or reason, the only limits seeming to be that he doesn't travel to a time before he was born, though he sometimes travels to his own childhood, nor beyond Clare's death as an old woman. But Henry does learn some necessary survival skills like lock-picking and shoplifting so that he can manage to clothe himself before he ends up in real trouble. Inevitably, trouble comes.In the book, it is very dark and very disturbing. The film keeps it much lighter. It is a bittersweet tale and one of the great romantic love stories of our time. Don't be afraid to watch it with the guy in your life since it's not overly mushy or girly. It is a charming film, beautifully acted, and if you have the chance, don't hesitate to read the book as well. It is sure to be a keeper on your bookshelf as well as in your heart.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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