Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or
boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on
its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does
not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things.
1 Cor. 13:4-7
Unlike most time travel stories, there is no scientist building a machine to take our hero backwards or forward into time. The emphasis in this story is upon love, not on scientific gadgetry—though there is a visit to a geneticist who speaks of something he calls Chrono-Impairment and epileptic attacks, and he uses a Cat scan—but no time machine. Henry (Eric Bana) is a librarian who has no control over his time traveling. He simply disappears. His story is told out of chronological order, going back about 30 years to a lovely meadow where a little girl named Clare (Brooklyn Proulx) hears a voice calling from out of the pushes while she is playing. Asked to bring the blanket she is sitting upon, she does so, and Henry emerges wrapped in it. This is the first of numerous such encounters, though in the future Clare brings along some of her father’s old clothes that “won’t be missed.” Years later, when Clare is grown (Rachel McAdams), she encounters Henry at the library and, because he does not yet know of their past encounters, fills him in on heir past relationship.
The concept is preposterous, so the filmmakers wisely ignores this, concentrating on the bittersweet incidents wherein Clare has to endure her lover’s sudden comings and goings. She discovers that it is not a good idea to ask him to carry the dishes, as his disappearances are so quick that she has to clean up a lot of messes. Three times he disappears on their wedding day, much to the dismay of his best man. Henry apparently is able to will his return, his last one just in time to stand by the minister and await his bride (though too late for him to shave!).
Later he even travels forward and…but that is to reveal too much. There are some humorous moments due to the fact that Henry’s body is dragged through time, but not his clothing and wedding ring (the one part of the film that does make sense). Thus, arriving naked in all kinds of settings, he often has to steal clothing by breaking and entering stores and homes, or even accost someone in the subway. The Chicago police catch him at times—I wonder what they write in their reports when he suddenly disappears on them. This is a film that calls for forgeting some of the illogic or absurdities and enjoy the love story. The two stars and the charming child actors help the willing viewer to overcome objections of the mind.
1. What is your overall impression of the film? How is this a different take on the time travel theme?
2. What scenes do you think were most poignant—those with his wife or his daughter?
3. How is love the thread running through the film? Human (eros) love: any sense of agape?
4. What irony do you see in the death scene?
5. A good time could be had for a group by setting up scenes in which Henry suddenly “lands” naked in the midst of people in various situations. Volunteers suggest what he might say or do. Also, the film never shows him disappear while at work (in fact, like most such films, it shows very little of his workplace). Imagine a librarian disappearing suddenly: what excuse might he make when he comes back—especially as in some cases in the film, he is gone for several days or weeks.