This movie, so beautifully adapted from the book, left me lacking words to describe its effect, and a question to ponder: aren’t we all time travelers?
At first it was like a intellectual jigsaw puzzle, trying to figure which piece and character belonged where and when. But then I found myself being drawn as if by an emotional magnet into the deepest places of the heart. There was no way to hide my feelings in the anonymity of a dark theater.
Its stunning transitions – with the gains and losses that time brings – create both romance and tragedy, a romance in the sudden and unexpected appearings of Henry, and a tragedy in the sense (and suspense) of never knowing when he will disappear, and the haunting question: when will he, will he, ever reappear?
Both the romantic and tragic aspects of life are present, the belief that at the next corner or around the next bend in the mountain road, we will suddenly come upon the discovery that will change us forever, yet with the undertone (conveyed by the haunting repetition of Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming) the awareness that no experience in time, no matter how long or short, will last long enough to fulfill our deepest dreams.
I found myself in tears many times in this lovingly executed film, especially as Henry appeared to the little girls, Claire and Alba, at different times in their lives, knowing that their dreams would not last, dreams of a lover or father who would stay with them always.
Then I thought of C. S. Lewis’ aphorism:
If nothing in this world wholly satisfies, it must be we are made for another world.
And I thought also of Jesus’ description of the “eternal life” – “the life of the aeons” – which he would give to all those the Father had put in his charge:
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
Here is life in all its fullness, measured not as duration, but as relation, not in length of time, but in its depth.
So perhaps we need movies like The Time Traveler’s Wife as intimations of immortality, reminding us to receive these momentary viewings as precious gifts, gifts to be received with joy, held hopefully as signals of another world, and shared with one another as tastes of a kingdom yet to come.