Henry is a time travelling librarian. Claire is an artist, who first met him when she was six years old, and he travelled to the meadow in which she was playing. However, Henry doesn’t meet Claire for the first time until he’s 28, when the 20 year old Claire walks into his life armed with a 14 year friendship she’s had with him, but he has yet to live. And so begins one of the oddest romances in (literally) history.
8 times and counting. That’s how many times I’ve read the book. The episodic structure of the novel is such that it’s easy to dip in and out of, even if you’re reading other things. You can quite easily spend an hour or a day with Henry and Claire whenever you wish. I don’t say that it is the best book ever written (if you’re looking for prose that will make you cry with joy, look to Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece, Lolita), but it is without doubt, my favourite book of all time.
When I found out that they were making a movie of the book, my initial reaction was how? There’s far too much to cram into a two hour movie. Surely they’d be better making a mini-series? The fact is, that they leave a lot of things out of the movie. Characters who you’d assume would be quite important are given very little screen time, or excised completely. Also, the ending of the novel isn’t used, only the spirit of the ending. The book’s ending was filmed, however, so maybe it’ll turn up as a DVD extra for all the purists out there.
The movie though, is superb. It’s perfectly cast, and instead of concentrating on every minute detail that made the book a joy to read, it concentrates solely on the boy-meets-girl-out-of-time concept, and plays out a love story over an evening-sized slice of time.
Lots of people have complained that their favourite part from the book isn’t in it (Rachel’s disastrous first date with another man and Henry’s revenge for it, The Gomez situation, Ingrid, Christmas at Meadowlark etc) but really, there is enough in this movie to sustain it and to give any newcomers to the story a decent enough reason to run off and read the book to fill in the blanks. Those people especially are in for a treat, as while the movie does have it’s moments of high drama, there is a noticeable lack of darkness, which the book has in spades. Also kudos must go to Bruce Joel Rubin for the writing of a brand new scene featuring a time travelling Henry and his mother on a subway train, which slots in perfectly to the TTW universe.
Rachel McAdams makes a stunning Claire, her scenes revolving around the pregnancy issues they have are completely believable and heartfelt. Early reports suggested Eric Bana wasn’t up to snuff in his performance of Henry. I can only assume those reviewers had been watching a very rough cut, as I thought he was fantastic. Special mention also to Arliss Howard as Henry’s dad, and Stephen Tobolowsky as Kendrick, who both go to demonstrate how scenes can be stolen with very limited screen time.
For everyone who’s going in expecting the book, lower your expectations. It isn’t the book. What it is, is a condensed version of the main love story from the book, played out perfectly with respect for the text. I am an obsessive fan of the book and I enjoyed the movie immensely. If I want the book, I’ll read the book. My imagination is perfectly capable of providing me with the visuals I need. However, from now on, if I want to spend an evening with the DeTambles and let someone else do the work, I’ll be watching the movie.
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