With very few impediments to romance left in conventional storytelling, writers are forced to add a touch of fantasy or sci-fi to create artificial barriers to love.
Like: your perfect mate is a vampire (Twilight).
Or: you’re getting younger as your true love gets older (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).
Or: the man you love keeps disappearing into another time, including your own past (The Time Traveler’s Wife).
Time travel is also a way to cheat another pesky issue that gets in the way of true romance: death.
1990’s Ghost, starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, is a classic of this genre. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who also adapted The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Other classic time travel romances include The Time Machine (1960, Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux), the Richard Matheson adaptation Somewhere in Time (1980, Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve) and The Lake House (2006, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock).
Will The Time Traveler’s Wife be a keeper? Tracking suggests that it will perform modestly this weekend, under $20 million, and that interest, naturally, is highest among older women, never a reliable group. But the Audrey Niffenegger book was a bestseller, and word-of-mouth may be more upbeat than critics will have you think. Early reviews are trending rotten. Women are more likely to pay attention to reviews.
The movie is directed with conviction by German Robert Schwentke, who did a sturdy job with the Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan. Remarkably, Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams breathe life into this implausible scenario of a man popping through time with no explanation of how or why he turns up where he does. It almost works.
Here’s the trailer. The movie opens Friday.