The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my all-time favorite books. So when the movie came out, I was all excited, and then it started getting lousy reviews. Uh oh.

What do you do when one of your favorite books gets turned into a movie, and all indications are the movie sucks?

 

If you are me, you go anyway! If it was a train wreck, it was a train wreck I had to see, if only to know why it sucked. How did the moviemakers succeed in mangling such a great story?

 

So I saw it. And you know what? It didn’t suck. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I’m rather flummoxed by its poor reviews.

Maybe the problem is that it doesn’t fit neatly into a genre. The Time Traveler’s Wife is about 1/3 science fiction, 1/3 romance, and 1/3 literary novel. A lot of reviewers who didn’t like the movie complained that they didn’t believe the premise. Guys, DUH. It is a time travel novel. You are not supposed to believe the premise. This is how spec fic works. You ask yourself, WHAT IF this impossible concept were possible? Then what would happen? Too many reviewers don’t seem to get that.

Then there was vast ignorance on the part of some reviewers, like the guy who called the original novel “lighthearted chick lit.” Yeesh. It is neither lighthearted nor chick lit.

 

Other reviewers were simply confused by the movie’s disjointedness and its jumping around in time. That may be a valid concern. It all fit together for me because I’d read the book, and I could fill in the 3/4 of the novel the filmmakers had to leave out. However, the friend who saw it with me said he liked it, and he had never read the book. I don’t think he had trouble figuring it out. So, not to impugn the reviewers and all, but maybe they just weren’t smart enough to put the timeline together!

I’m kidding. Sort of. Can you tell I’m a little defensive about this movie?

 

 I’d have been upset if the filmmakers had not been true to the book, but they were. Sure, they had to cut out 3/4 of the novel to make it fit into 2 hours, but the kept the most important scenes. And while they did change the ending–a slight disappointment to me–the ending they used was at least true to the spirit of the original.

BTW, The Time Traveler’s Wife (the book) has the best ending of any novel I have ever read. I can tear up just by thinking about that ending.

The book has its flaws. I never cared for the frostbite scene–I thought it added unnecessary darkness to the novel. And the characters were never all that likeable. It is very unusual for me to love a novel where I don’t bond with the characters, but in this case it happened. The book didn’t grab me with characters. It grabbed me with intellectual interest (piecing together the disjointed timeline) and emotional resonance. The movie softens the edges of the characters, actually improving on that flaw, but the filmmakers didn’t cut the frostbite scene. Pity.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is billed as a romance, but to me it’s actually more about grief and missing the people you love. If you’ve ever lost somebody close to you, I think you will find this movie especially poignant. Imagine being able to go back in time and see that person again, when they were still alive. If they died when you were a child, imagine being able to see them now that you are an adult. Imagine being able to go forward in time and see your future child, years after your own death.

And imagine knowing exactly when and how you will die…

Henry’s jumping in and out of time, his involuntary leaving of Claire and coming back to her, represents the ephemeral nature of all our relationships. People are with us for a while, and then they go, voluntarily or not, often when you least expect it. And yet in a way they are always with you.

If those concepts resonate with you, I think you will get something out of this movie, reviewers be damned.