As much as the great romance can seduce with its uplifting and sad story, it can’t avoid the elephant in the room.
When Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife came out in 2003, public awareness of grooming and predatory behavior was far less advanced than it is now.
So the story of how time-traveling Clare and Henry fell in love was swept up in the grand romance of love, passion and devotion. The fact that they first met (for her) when she was six and he was an adult was somewhat secondary, understated in favor of the strength of Niffenegger’s uplifting story.
Instead, it was just a bizarre start to an all-consuming relationship that felt like fate.
Almost two decades later, a new television adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife has to close the age gap between the elephants in the room – and the question is whether the weight of storytelling is enough to overcome the glaring awkwardness.
It’s a mixed bag. The series, written for the screen by Steven Moffat (sherlock, Doctor Who) and starring Rose Leslie and Theo James, is a charming and engaging miniseries that is underpinned by the palpable chemistry of its protagonists.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Henry (James) is an unwitting time traveler. Thanks to a genetic flaw, he appears in and out of (mostly) his own timeline, gravitating around the people most important to him.
That person is Clare (Leslie), whom he visits as a child aged 6-18, until they meet in the same timeline when she is 20 and he is 28. But Henry and Clare have never been visited by any version of Henry who is over 42, so they know something is up.
Thanks to its beloved source material, the writing is solid and the production values are a bit more than passable. It also moves at a blistering pace, not wasting much of its six-episode run.
It’s not just the combat in individual scenes that makes you root for Clare and Henry, it’s also what Moffat translates on screen to Niffenegger’s assertion that while all romances are fleeting, making the most of every moment together is what makes it worth it. .
The determinism of the future – that it ends – looms over everything, but that’s exactly why the present must be savored, and it convincingly demonstrates why Clare and Henry’s sad love story is worth watching. watched. Because while it has its share of moments you wish you didn’t have, it also has powerful moments – much like any romance.
Unfortunately, the series is never so engrossing that you forget Clare and Henry’s interactions as a child, especially since that relationship develops in tandem with their “current” relationship. There’s always that nasty feeling that it’s not quite right, and the show doesn’t do enough to assuage that feeling.
He tries. In the series timeline, the scene of him at 28 meeting her at 20 is shown first. And Leslie and James are, in real life, only two years apart (compared to the 10 years between Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in the movie version), so visually they look like contemporaries in their scenes together.
But a recreation of the book cover, the photo of her tiny black Mary Janes and frilly white socks next to her human-sized brown derby shoelaces are a powerful reminder of the unease.
The new TV adaptation is aware of this. It makes for a very conscious joke about grooming in the first episode and there are some agonizing conversations about the two imprinting on each other.
The series also points out that Clare is the most sexually aggressive of the pair and “seduces” him, but she also talks about how her sexual desires have been shaped by her presence in her life since she was a child. This exchange was definitely a “you gods” moment, a moment you can’t get rid of.
Much like Henry’s affliction being a double-edged sword, The Time Traveler’s Wife also relates to both the strength and weakness of Niffenegger’s book.
If you want the vertigo of Clare and Henry’s sad love story, you also have to take the sometimes frightening age gap.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is streaming now on Binge
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