‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ Review: A Repetitive Life Told Repetitively


When it will come to “The Time Traveler’s Spouse,” what is aged is new. Pretty practically.

Audrey Niffenegger’s novel, printed in 2003, captured the creativity of a vast readership with its tale of a marriage unmoored by a husband’s inclination to skip through time. The popular swooning built a film adaptation, released in 2009 and starring Eric Bana as time traveler and Rachel McAdams as wife, a foregone summary. Now, the franchise reappears in our timeline, with Theo James and Rose Leslie having on the guide roles in an HBO drama sequence that keeps Niffenegger’s intricate conceit intact.

Right here, James’ Henry and Leslie’s Clare speak at instances immediately to camera, documentary-design and style, about the strangeness of their plight: Henry is unstuck in record, vanishing from linear time to pop up at times of crucial importance. This is what lends his romance with Clare its feeling of future, as, in adulthood, he was transported to fulfill her as a little one. She was seemingly fated to be an significant determine in his lifetime. It’s also what gives the marriage its air of doom. Henry are not able to meaningfully be present when he’s normally moments from staying snatched into the past. And the truth that Clare has achieved Henry at many ages but never as a senior citizen indicates a untimely conclusion lies in advance.

This all manufactured for additional tale than the function movie could get its arms all over perhaps, then, a 6-episode time of television, directed by Emmy-successful “Game of Thrones” helmer David Nutter, could start off to do the occupation. But the simple fact of the earlier adaptation looms above “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” 2022 edition: This is a sequence that struggles at situations to locate a new way into its tale. And that tale, as prior to, is so elaborately and granularly in depth that a novel angle of method appears to be perhaps unachievable. In purchase to do “The Time Traveler’s Spouse,” government producer Steven Moffat (of “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock”) appears to have concluded, a person ought to stick to the Niffenegger playbook, no subject how limiting it results in being.

A person could possibly consider that a story hinging on time vacation would be open and wildly totally free-ranging, but “The Time Traveler’s Wife” has, in all its incarnations, had a sourness to it. This clearly show depicts somebody who is not simply ready to move by way of the eras of his life, but is compelled to do so in opposition to his will. The trick that no one has still realized is generating what is for Henry a pressured march sense for the viewer like, properly, not that. James’ general performance leans into Henry’s weariness, seeming at situations petulant at what he’s getting designed to endure. Leslie, a heat and captivating presence on “Game of Thrones,” fares perfectly by contrast, and excels notably at carrying across some of the much more florid lines of dialogue that remind viewers of this project’s literary origins. But the tale fails to convince that the pair shares substantially much more than an knowing of the hurdles keeping them apart. So significantly time is used on developing the principles of this show’s game that there’s small room to enjoy.

Those people principles, defined by Henry to good friends deep into the season’s run, are elaborate: For occasion, when Henry disappears, he doesn’t take his garments with him, and so has to swiftly contrive a way to steal garments to stay away from drawing interest to himself, or to battle his way out if he does. The present does a fantastic deal of wheel-spinning all around Henry’s quest to cover himself, and does what verges on a gratuitous volume of ogling of James’ nude form as nicely. (A tricky factor for a display in which we hop from Henry’s twenties to his early center age at random is that James perennially offers as kissed by youth, and isn’t meaningfully aged up by the production past modifications in his hair. It commences to make sense that character ages are outlined with onscreen text.) And the present addresses the truly tricky make a difference of Henry’s very first assembly Clare in early daily life — as that onscreen textual content has it, when he’s 31 and she’s 6 — without having reckoning with it. When Henry, in a moment of panicked emotion, refers to the pair’s romantic relationship as “grooming,” it can really feel, sadly, difficult to argue. Basically stating that some thing bizarre is likely on is not tantamount to untangling it.

And “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is without a doubt a weird factor: It’s a perform manufactured with genuine fealty to a nearly 20-yr-aged novel following in a movie adaptation that did the exact same issue, undercutting alternatives that present themself to explain to a tale we have currently found in an progressive way. (By the way, its existence on linear HBO feels puzzling as perfectly: “The Staircase” and “Tokyo Vice” are but two of the the latest HBO Max streaming primary dramas that truly feel additional in line with the Sunday-nights-on-HBO brand name of prestigey high-quality than does this collection.) Possibly this heartfelt but unsteady series can make for a fitting instance of model pursuing material: A tale about a fellow who finds himself compelled to relive his past at the cost of opportunities in the current ends up suffering the exact destiny.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” premieres Sunday, Could 15 on HBO and will be offered to stream on HBO Max.

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