‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ is still weird, even as a TV show


Rose Leslie and Theo James as Claire and Henry.

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Rose Leslie and Theo James as Claire and Henry.

McCall Poole/HBO

Some books may not be truly adaptable.

The Time Traveler’s Wife There was a very popular 2003 novel that told a complex story. When Claire Abshire is six years old, she meets an adult man in a clearing near her home. He says that he is from the future. He eventually reveals that he is her husband. her future husband. His name is Henry, and he has a problem, which is that he comes nonstop in time and involuntarily travels to the past or the future. He also doesn’t control where or when he lands, but he does have a tendency to travel to places that are important in his life, which is how he keeps landing in Claire’s clearing over and over again – Because they are married in the future, so that’s important.

The book was made into a film in 2009, starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. It got lousy reviews. Now it’s back as an HBO series with a six-episode first season (“Focus on the First Word”) starring Rose Leslie and Theo James. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work either. For lack of a better explanation, this story is very… strange.

The Time Traveler’s Wife Premieres on HBO on Sunday.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife There are the same problems with explaining logistics that most time-travel fiction does. Presumably, there was an original timeline where Claire and Henry met “naturally”, and it was only then that Henry began traveling to Claire’s childhood to hang out with her, which is why she always looks at him when she sees him. growns up. But that timeline no longer exists, because he has changed it. And this means that now, as her life really exists now, Claire has spent the majority of her life only after marrying him, starting when she was six years oldAnd that being said, they are destined to be married, and having sex with him when she was 18 and the version that came into her life was something like 40.

There’s a figurative interpretation of this story that’s quite touching: Claire meets the man of her dreams as a child, but when she actually encounters him at age 20 and she’s 26 (and she in his original timeline, where he knows he time-travels but does not ‘yet’ recognize him), he is not yet that person. She’s in love with the man she believes she’s going to be, the 40-year-old she’s already slept with, the man—as she says it at one point—around whom the whole notion of romance and sex has been built. Went. She is pursuing her ideal, while the man Henry is at the moment remains hopeless. And throughout their relationship, he disappears without warning, appearing elsewhere after minutes or hours or days. She is at the mercy of his comings and goings, and creating any kind of stability is practically impossible when his life is dominated by the unpredictability of his journey.

Theo James as Henry and Everleigh McDonnell as young Claire.

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Theo James as Henry and Everleigh McDonnell as young Claire.

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But when you take this idea of ​​waiting and hoping literally when you actually portray it on a screen—especially with the kind of mild romcom energy that creator Steven Moffatt brings to the scenes between Claire and Henry It sounds scary, like a comedy about a woman who ends up in a relationship she never gets the chance to choose or not.

Not that there is nothing about it that has any appeal. Leslie and James are both cute, and they have totally workable chemistry, and when they meet in “real life”, the time where she knows him but he doesn’t know her (because she hasn’t yet had time- Haven’t started the journey), they have a pleasant messy time. And because Henry can time-travel into moments when other versions of himself already exist, the show has some fun with an older Henry insulting a version of himself who is young and stupid (won’t we all? )

It’s worth mentioning that the show also likes the part of Henry’s story that says he can’t take anything with him when he time-travels, so he always comes naked everywhere. Rarely does the nudity-friendly HBO show a person naked behind, as much as Theo James’ naked behind the show – it can even be on posters. James spends most of his adventures gleaming with a mist of baby oil, sculpted and on display as Henry wanders in the cold (yikes) or through bushes (ouch) or gets into fights (oofs).

It seems that Moffat is trying to avoid the uncomfortable quality of this story—the way it can make Henry an essentially manipulative person, even if that wasn’t his intention—by keeping it light. He introduces playfulness around wacky time-travel situations in which Claire (filmed mock-style, as an old lady) while trying to hang onto the tragic moments (no, I don’t know why they chose this framing) ) discusses his loneliness and his loss. recovering a (very) bloody moment from a violent event in Henry’s life and showing it over and over again… and again…

The story is meant to be powerfully sad, but the adaptation never quite comes together emotionally except as an abstract idea, as this sadness is so closely tied to the inconvenient fact that belief in a romantic notion of fate is independent. Choose a partner that crowds out the romantic notion.

It’s hard to imagine what one would do to make it more palatable—would it work better if it were weeping, or if it was darker, or if it was shorter or longer. It may be that just as demons are often more frightening in a book than they possibly could be, when made physically real, the slippery notion of a man in the future tells a very young woman. That he’s her future husband is more squish-inducing when you actually see it than being in the essence.

Maybe only nudity really translates.

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