‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ Review: Love Gets Complicated When It Goes Backwards

The Time Traveler's Wife

Time Travel is one of the most popular and often used tropes when it comes to the science fiction genre. The opportunity to turn back time and fix the mistakes we made or go to the future and see what awaits are great temptations that basically exploit our most primal flaws as human beings.

It is no wonder we are obsessed with time travel stories. Even Marvel took the chance on one when it came the time to close the Infinity Saga arc with the film Endgame. Let’s remember Endgame is the most successful movie of all time at the box office by the time this review is being written. Time is one of the few forces in nature that we still don’t comprehend, so having the illusion of being able to control it is just so much fun.

Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, also had the great idea of using the trope and mixing it with another one of the great human obsessions, love. And so the successful novel was born, selling millions of copies in the US alone and getting a movie adaptation in 2009 starring Rachel McAdams, and Eric Bana. Now, Warner Bros. tries to make a new adaptation, but this time as a TV series for HBO Max.

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife as we previously said is an adaptation of the novel by the name written by Audrey Niffenegger and stars Rose Leslie, and Theo James in the roles of Clare and Henry. Henry suffers from a genetic defect that allows him to travel through time inside his own timeline. However, these jumps in time are at random, he cannot control them, which messes a lot with his intention of living a normal life.

In one of those jumps, Henry meets Clare, a six-year-old girl, and they begin a friendship that turns into love as Clare starts connecting the dots and realizes Henry is her future husband. From there, a lot of time travel shenanigans occur. When the book came out, The Time Traveler’s Wife was seen as a fresh new take on time travel, and with this new adaptation we can say that the story still holds by being entertaining and emotional.

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Steven Moffat, famous for being the mind behind shows such as Coupling, Sherlock, and several seasons of Doctor Who, serves as the showrunner of the show. Moffat uses his expertise when it comes to time travel and makes for a show that manages to be emotional and exciting in equal parts. The show is also able to create the uncertainty that comes when even the time traveler cannot know what awaits him in his future.

As an adaptation, the show works a lot better than the movie. This season runs for six episodes of about an hour each, and just with that extended time, the show can dwell into details the way a movie just can’t. We also spend a lot more time with the characters, we learn more about them, and we start seeing them both as the flawed creatures they are, even when trapped inside such a romantic story.

The show is bound to be controversial, some elements in the story, while okay two decades ago, might be seen as problematic by certain groups. The show addresses the issues, but because it is such a main part of the story, it is impossible to erase it completely.

The Time Traveler's Wife

Moffat uses the same concept in his Doctor Who tenure, with the character of Amy Pond in the place of Clare, and there, his execution of the idea was less problematic. We have to wait and see how these groups will react. Hopefully nothing goes out of control.

Alongside these elements that now could be considered problematic, the show often falls into maybe a bit too much repetition. Sometimes the character progression seems too stiff, and at points the plot definitely feels like it is going in circles. This goes well with the thematic importance of time and the time travel mechanic the story presents, but also affects the pacing by quite a bit.

Fortunately, the show has two amazing lead actors, and they do as much as they can when it comes to delivering and elevating their roles. Rose Leslie, who is basically known as Ygritte, from Game of Thrones, makes the role of Clare her own. Clare is pretty, decisive and a bit too judgmental, but it all makes for a believable character that is trying to drive through the crazy situation she is involved in.

However, it is Theo James who comes off as the standout performer in the show. The actor has proven in the past years that he is a fantastic actor, even his voice manages to deliver a lot of emotion without even trying. James has the most difficult role on the show, but he delivers by making the different versions of himself seem unique. James is definitely far from being the pretty face many people typecast him when his career began.

Makeup is an important part of the production in a story like this one. Being able to mold your actors and present them in different ages is a must and the show, sadly, doesn’t manage to pull it off. Some of the makeup feels really fake. Especially when it comes to making the actors older. The makeup in these stages feel like the vision that someone has of their grandmothers, and grandfathers, and not actually what these characters would look at such an age.

The same happens when the characters try to pull off their younger selves. The audiences will need to suspend their disbelief during these moments. Leslie cannot pass for a 16 years old convincingly.

Overall, this first season of The Time Traveler’s Wife is quite entertaining, and the actors manage to deliver some very impactful and emotional scenes. Moffat does what he knows how to do and manages to make the time traveling rules clear and efficient. There will definitely be a second season to finish the tale of these two strange lovers.

SCORE: 8/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.