When Henry (Eric Bana) was a child, sitting in the back seat of his mother's car one winter, she was singing to him, being an opera singer, and he was attempting to join in. But the conditions were icy and suddenly she noticed a truck which had lost control and was spinning towards them, whereupon something strange happened. The boy began to fade away as the accident occurred, found himself first looking at a family scene from his past, and then standing by the side of the road watching the aftermath as his grown up self appeared beside him...
So what was going on? Based on Audrey Niffenegger's bestselling novel, this was a time travel story where the protagonist had become unstuck in time much like the lead in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse 5. But don't expect anything as dramatic as the bombing of Dresden here, nor the appearance of space aliens which might have made things more interesting, as this used the central notion of that classic book for a more poignant romance. Meaning Henry slips in and out of the life of Clare (Rachel McAdams) at various points in her life, not knowing where he'll end up next, but at least knowing there's a friendly face to greet him.
Well, usually, although it's never clear why he continually ends up around Clare when this is meant to be a random event, but there was a lot which didn't make sense on closer scrutiny here. Fans of science fiction would be best advised to treat this with a touch of scepticism, but if all the usual paradoxes and often advanced machinery which were the staples of such tales were absent, those who wanted an unconventional love story would be well served. Except that there were those with objections that while Henry appeared to Clare when she was a child, the opposite was not true.
Which led to some views of The Time Traveler's Wife being that this was more like the Crafty Groomer's Wife, as it looked from some angles that Henry was using his powers, if you could call them that, to manufacture a relationship between him and Clare starting from when she was a little girl. If he had shown up in her life as he was when he was a boy of the same age it may not have been so uncomfortable for certain audiences, and it was possible to overthink what was, for all its pretensions, a piece of fluff. If anything it could have done with having more incident, as it seemed for much of this that living unstuck in time was much the same only in a different order.
Sort of like the television series Quantum Leap would be if Sam Beckett had been obsessed with one person and a criminal lack of Dean Stockwell holding a gizmo, this was less interested in the science than it was in the emotion. That said, Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day (coincidence?) showed up late on as a scientist with an explanation for Henry's condition, but it was apparent nobody was really bothered, and keener on having Bana and McAdams whisper sweet nothings to each other as the supposedly heart-wrenching twists of fate kept tearing them apart and bumping them back together again. By the end, this had turned into a meditation on the permanent loss of a partner through death, metaphorically in this case, as Henry has had a preview of his demise and recognises it's only a matter of, er, time before he has to face up to vanishing forever, but as with rest it's lightweight and lacking impact. Music by Mychael Danna.