Now you see him, now you don’t

29 08 2009

“CLARE ABSHIRE, 31, It’s complicated™.”

If Chicago-based artist Clare Abshire (played by the luminously beautiful Rachel McAdams) signed up for a friendster account in the 2000’s, I guess that is most likely how she would have opted to summarize her relationship status with Henry DeTamble (the Eric Bana).

Movie - The Time Traveler's Wife 00a

Theatrical poster for "The Time Traveler's Wife," as displayed at the Alabang Town Center cinema.

The Time Traveler’s Wife” is the story of a girl.  Yes, the story starts with Clare as a young girl of six who meets and falls in love with a much older guy Henry who appears and disappears against his will.  Everytime he literally vanishes – leaving only the trail of his clothes and shoes behind (my fave being that one when he was running down the stairs) – he randomly turns up in another place and another time.  Either he finds the clothes he left behind, or he relies on his survival instincts – including developed skills like picking locks – to get clothes.  And then life at least for the time he stays in that frame of the universe goes on.

Clare very early on becomes fully aware of Henry’s “chrono-impairment” disorder.  And in spite of this very clear and very present deterrent, girl and guy manage to get into – and sustain – a relationship.  Though from that first scene in the Chicago library when an obviously thrilled Clare didn’t elicit the same level of excitement from the special topics librarian Henry, it really became clear to me that our protagonists are all caught up in a romantic situation that leaves them bewildered and confused at times.  But when the confusion sets in, Clare and Henry are still lucky that one of them has a good grasp of the time and the events, and will lead the other on.  Which was something I couldn’t say about me, seeing the movie alone.  There were points in the narrative when I would quickly glance at the couples and groups in the audience, trying to check if they looked as confused as I was.  I would chide myself that I didn’t get to read the novel first before I went to see the movie.

Yes, I haven’t read the novel but I decided to see the movie just the same.  I was abroad when I first heard about it when it was released, and when it later made the New York Times bestseller list.  The first thing that captivated me was the title – The Time Traveler’s Wife.  In the space of four short words, my neurons got all worked up with flashing scenes of romance and science fiction all muddled up by trips down memory lane and projections to the future.  I thought the author came up with a very clever – very prowerful – title that explicitly defined the main characters (a man and a woman), their relationship (husband and wife), and their greatest obstacle (someone’s traveling through the barriers of time).

Though the premise sounded straightforward enough, I have to say that it presents quite a challenge to the director tasked to capture hundreds of pages that, in Summit’s words, allow the reader to “linger on the possibilities and nuances of time and space.”    I will have to agree with Summit when she told me that “cinema doesn’t give you that leisure all the time.”  A part of me initially thought that the challenge posed to Robert Schwentke was pretty easy to deal with.  I thought it was akin to just weaving footages on a Windows MovieMaker storyboard with visually delicious video transitions dragged and dropped in between scenes of Henry’s vanishing and appearing.  But I thought wrong.  Having not read the novel, I found myself listening to the dialogue more intently than usual, trying to snatch hints of the current scene’s time stamp.

Yes, I can hear some of you may be saying, “Pay attention to the clothing, stupid!”  But my best guess is that the story unfolded within the time span of just three to four decades.  And if the production design of the movie is to be trusted, the lines between the 80’s, the 90’s and the 2000’s are as blurred as could be.  I didn’t see Clare’s posture enhanced by voluminous shoulder pads at any point to say that the time warp has brought us to the 80’s.  Besides, Henry having to contend with even Salvation Army fashion finds wasn’t any help.  And the haircuts really didn’t clue me in at all – except that I have to say only Eric Bana could pull off really bad hair.

But I think the biggest downside to not having read the novel first was that when Clare says that she and Henry is to have dinner at the latter’s favorite place, I swear I thought they were having Italian.  I totally thought the place was called “Bow Tie,” which I took as an homage to the farfalle (bow tie pasta).  Soon enough, a slowly spiraling camera shot from the top of their restaurant table caught a glimpse of the menu, revealing Henry’s favorite place to be “Beau Thai.”  Hahaha!  But at least I had the rare chance to really laugh at myself.

But having said these impediments, I still ended up texting my friends – just about every friend I think gives a damn about me and what I think – that I liked the movie.  I really did.

In any relationship, there is always one party that loves the other more.  While one decision made by Henry underscores just how much he cares for the welfare of Clare, I will have to give the unconditional love award to the latter.  For one, it takes so much – immeasurable even just how much – to love someone who just “will not always be there.”  And while Henry may have declared, “I don’t want you to wait.  I don’t want you to spend your time waiting.”  he knows better that any moment he zips past the time continuum, Clare will always be there.

And in one of the more poignant scenes in the movie, when Henry says that he has never wanted anything in his life that he couldn’t stand losing – but it was already too late for him to change his mind – I sincerely felt that he was speaking for both himself and Clare.

Now tell me if you could lay claim to a more complex relationship.

Movie - The Time Traveler's Wife 02

Another movie ticket for keeps


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2 responses

13 11 2009
jen

i am reading this book now (yes, only now) and remembered that you once made a post about the movie which i only read in portions because i was planning to watch the movie then and didn’t want to be like Henry who already knew what was going to happen way before it does. unfortunately, i didn’t get to watch the movie. and kind of knowing that some movies do not really do justice to the book they’re supposed to translate in the big screen (take for example the shopaholic movie by my favorite Sophie Kinsella), i decided it would be better to read the book instead…and now i am.

i’m only halfway but i can clearly see how unconditionally Clare loved Henry for her to put spend her whole life waiting for him.

when a colleague of mine asked me what the book is about, i said “now you see him, now you don’t”, and it amused me when i opened your blog now and saw that it’s the title of your entry (yes, i read it but i really didn’t remember the title so i had to search for it by typing the time trveler’s wife)

so far so good, i love the book…and how i wish i can love the way Clare loved her Henry.

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14 11 2009
entengvince

Partner… If there is anybody who can love someone unconditionally, it is you. Even with your friends, you are already that way. You can count me in.

I couldn’t help but smile to see that we are on synch on how to succinctly summarize this book. Hahaha! I liked the expression so much I made it my blog post’s title.

Take care! Let me know when you finish the book. Maybe then, I’d consider reading it too. Hehehe.

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