Many people like me, loved the novel. Others were confused by the constant switching between characters and places in time. Admittedly, I was one of those people at first, but as I read further into the novel, I became less confused. The author, Audrey Niffenegger, intends to confuse readers since Henry lives in a state of confusion for so long. As he matures and understands his gift/curse/purpose/destiny, he comes to terms with his condition and therefore, less confused by it all. The novel reflects this progression.
The film version, on the hand, is much simpler and less confusing, but by being less complicated, it loses the complexity of the characters and the plot. The film shares Henry and Claire’s love story and struggles with his genetic anomaly of time traveling, but barely touches the surface of the much deeper themes in the novel.
Obviously, the love story theme translates well to the big screen, but so much of that love story has been omitted during the process. The film clings to the love story and some of the tearful moments in the novel, but it’s far more than a boy meets girl love story or in this case, old Henry meets young Claire and they fall in love. There’s pubescent love. There’s betrayal and hurt. There’s jealousy and pain. There’s loss time and time again as well as time lost. The film only touches the surface of these plot elements.
If the movie is your first experience with The Time Traveler’s Wife, then you may love it. I found myself crying at all the scenes I expected I would after reading the novel. I enjoyed seeing Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana bringing the characters to life. Despite shedding some tears, I still longed for more, which can only be found within the pages of the novel.
After finishing the novel, I mourned for days and I went into the film expecting that same impact. However, once leaving the theater, my emotions were left behind like an empty tub of popcorn. I simply did not connect with the characters as deeply as I did with the novel. Perhaps it was the time invested in the novel which facilitated that connection, but there have been plenty of films that I connected emotionally with the characters and that emotion impacts me for days. This was not the case with The Time Traveler’s Wife although I had high hopes that it would. The only emotion present days after viewing the film is disappointment.