Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Time Traveller's Wife

On Friday evening we went to see The Time Traveller's Wife. My wife had read the book, and I'd read half of it - I got half way and she nicked it off me at Cork airport about 3 years ago and I'd never gotten round to read the rest (though I now have).

The film follows the basic thread of the book, Henry DeTamble has a genetic condition that means he spontaneously time travels, with a particular attraction to certain gravitational points - chiefly linked to his eventual wife Clare. It's not a sci-fi but a romantic story, largely about waiting and longing within a history that is already written (no time-changing time travel here, this is not Back to the Future). We see this determinism illustrated in the face of tragedy in the characters and Clare's response to Henry's wedding proposal and the final conclusion of the film.

Comparing the a book and a film is always problematic. The formats are different and a straight copy is rarely going to produce a good film. A lot is cut, including some fairly major characters, leaving a film that still feels a little cramped at 107 minutes but which is perfectly long enough for the story. Somewhere a bit more space would have helped because what's left feels a bit contrived and moulded into the hollywood rom-com genre - hardly giving room to really contemplate the big questions about death and determinism that the film raises..

The ending is slightly different and I think ends up making the opposite point about hope and waiting which has evidently outraged fans of the book, and is a bit disappointing - having not finished the book til after watching the film feels like a win. I don't think the film is as good or as engaging as the book, but that's rarely the case. A decent light Rachel-McAdams-The-Notebook-esque film with hints of substance that are worth pondering further.


  1. A decent light film?

    That statement is a travesty to film reviewing Bish. The film was tragic. Doesn't the fear of death affect you in anyway? Would you be happy to say goodbye to Em, knowing that in a few hours, that is it? How is that a light subject?

    We went to see this last night. 30 people or so in cinema, I saw a number of guys with puffy eyes. In the quiet bits near the end, you could hear a lot of people sniffing.

    This film hits people between the eyes, with, among other things, death and leaving behind people you love.

  2. I'm intrigued, Tom - had you read the book before watching the film? I wonder if it might take away some of the impact of the film in dealing with such topics if you'd already thought about them by reading the book first. Then the film, by comparison, might seem light. I merely pose it as a possibility - I haven't read/seen either yet, and am partly wondering whether to go for my usual approach of reading the book first!

  3. I just saw the film. Didn't read the book.

    The films main question: How could I leave the ones I love, and knowingly face my own death? How can I face this?

    Is anything but light. And it isn't in one scene either. The whole film is saturated with this question. Almost every scene.

    I'd be willing to predict that the film is likely to be one of the most serious and intense films of the whole year. Rotten Tomatoes has a split opinion on it. Some reviewers finding it moving, some finding it bland. I'm tempted to think that the latter are quite bland themselves (I don't mean you Bish).

  4. Dave! Never posted on your blog cool! But thanks for posting this review. I have actually read this book two or three times now, and probably can't bring myself to see the film unfortunately. Part of what I loved about the book was how the author (obviously a Chicago resident herself) weaves the fabric of the city of Chicago into the story itself - I am assuming that Hollywood has removed all traces of that...? And the main character of Henry DeTamble who's supposed to be this wilder-than-wild youth who works at a library, loves Thai and adores the Sex Pistols...planned by Eric Bana? I just don't know...but would love to hear if they put any of Chicago in the movie.

  5. By light film I mean that the weightiness of the book is turned fairly saccharine by the film - I know the film still deals with death and loss, and it is very moving, but relative to the book its just very Hollywood with 'hints of substance' - I think it tries to engage with the issues but somehow doesn't quite hit it. I guess that's what I mean by it needing a bit more space to breath - and the change to the ending changes the message quite a bit in terms of what it has to say about hope and waiting.

    Jane - it's in Chicago but its relatively incidental to the film, and Henry isn't quite the same as the book.