Reading a synopsis of The Time Traveler's Wife, one would be greatly tempted to believe that it had a little something for everyone in the audience. The film, directed by Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) and based on a book by Audrey Niffenegger, is the tale of a man who travels in time and the woman who loves him. It has a little bit of science fiction, some drama, and a whole lot of romance. What this filmic adaptation lacks though, oddly, is a single cohesive story. Instead, The Time Traveler's Wife is instead far more like a series of scenes, of moments in the lives of the two characters at its center without ever really exploring anything.
The time traveler at the story's center is Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana). Henry first time travels at age six and throughout the rest of his life has, at random points, jumped around in time. Rarely does he seem to go anywhere for an extended period, and often he visits the same moments in time over and over again. The movie gives a half-hearted, wholly unexplored reason for this time travel – a genetic abnormality.
Though the film could spend a significant amount of time in an attempt to explain or even simply examine Henry's time travel, the reasons for it and the ways in which he can try and stop it, it doesn't do this. The genetic abnormality explanation is all we get as to why, and while ways he can try to stop it are mentioned in passing, that is as much as the time travel facts are explored.
The film only provides the time travel story in order to give a spin to the tradition boy meets girl story; in fact, it is only Henry's genetic abnormality that causes any difficulties in his relationship with the love of his life, Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams). Though she is the titular wife, Clare feels like the most hastily sketched of characters. Her entire life as presented in the film – she met Henry when she was six – has solely been defined by her relationship with her eventual husband. Outside of the fact that she loves Henry, would like to have a family, and is an artist, the audience learns nothing about Clare.
I do not mean to suggest that the audience learns a great deal more about Henry than Clare, it most certainly does not. Henry is a librarian, a time traveler, perhaps an alcoholic, and in love with Clare, but when the final credits roll that is all one has really learned about him.
Instead of giving the audience fully fleshed out characters, instead of providing a compelling story, instead of ever actually exploring who these characters are and why they might love each other, Schwentke, via Bruce Joel Rubin's (Deep Impact) screenplay, opts to only show moments from the characters' lives. The movie shows small scenes from a larger life to which the viewer is never given access. To make it worse, there are a plethora of scenes in the film where all the characters discuss other moments in their lives – moments which all too often sound more interesting than what appears on screen. In short, the film all too often violates the popular axiom "show me, don't tell me." In the film, magically, Henry becomes great friends with Clare's good friend, Gomez (Ron Livingston). In fact, Gomez ends up as Henry's best man, but the audience really only knows the two are to become such good friends because future Henry tells Gomez as much – the relationship never develops, they simply go from acquaintances to best of friends.
One might assume that there are a slew of deleted scenes which, if added back into the film, might significantly balloon the running time but provide the viewer with a far more satisfying experience. If such scenes exist, they are not included on the new Blu-ray release. Instead, the package contains a digital copy and two making-of featurettes, which are, for no clear reason, made as said two featurettes instead of a single piece. The interviews with the cast and crew included in the pieces certainly make it appear as though they were filmed at the same time, and while one purports to give us McAdams and Bana's view of the relationships whereas the other is allegedly more focused on the actual making of the film, without reading the synopsis provided on the back of the box no one would guess that's what the difference is supposed to be.
Perhaps the best elements of the film are the technical features of the release. The video quality is quite good. Some may be bothered by the amount two different blacks in the same scene melt together, destroying any visible difference between something in the foreground and something in the background. However, one cannot help but be impressed by the rich and varied colors; no matter the color on screen, they are attractive and appealing, drawing in the viewer far more than the plot ever does. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track only truly gets the chance to shine twice, but performs solidly throughout. One won't have to sit with the remote altering the volume repeatedly, and the surrounds do a good job of placing the audience wherever the characters may be.
In the end, The Time Traveler's Wife, is a below average romantic drama. There are certainly enough people out there who enjoy watching Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana and who thirst for such films that it will find fans, but there are far better examples of the genre and performances by the stars. The only thing that at all differentiates this film from so many others is the sci-fi overlay, but that overlay, as with everything else in the film, is never developed, never explored. The Time Traveler's Wife does manage to put on screen several good scenes, but those scenes are not strung together into a single compelling piece. As the credits roll, one can't help but feel that the movie is full of promises left unfulfilled.