When it comes to time travel stories, I tend to be EXCEPTIONALLY critical. I just hate it when brainless story lines just run rough-shod right over basic quantum mechanics. (Okay, so I am a bit of a geek.) The truth is that many science fiction stories related to time travel just fail. Ironically, the original tale by Jules Verne of “the Time Machine” is one of the best. I say this is ironic because many time travel stories – especially in film – have failed ever since. The list is long, I assure you – I will spare you the exhaustive plethora I have unfortunately borne witness to over the years. Now, there have been some pretty great ones, and they are almost always NOT a film based on science. That is a great start. Reason being: you can’t argue against such a film if there is no real science to it. Besides, it’s much more imaginative that way! (A brief glimpse into some of these: “Kate and Leopold”, “Butterfly Effect”, “Groundhog Day”, “13 Going on 30”, “From Time to Time”, “Frequency”, and best of all “Donnie Darko”.)
Standing apart from all of these time travel movies is “Somewhere in Time”.
Where do I begin to speak to the mastery of this story? Well, for starters, there is the story. Written as a short novel by the great Richard Matheson called Bid Time Return, this story was adapted for the screen by Matheson himself. You MAY have heard of him as an author, but certainly you know his work as films – such as “I am Legend”, “Last Man on Earth”, “The Omega Man”, “The Martian Chronicles”, “Stir of Echoes”, “The Box”, and of course “The Legend of Hell House”. I told you that you MIGHT have heard of him! The guy is a fantastic author; I have read Stir of Echoes, Legend of Hell House, and I am Legend and each novel was a pretty fascinating book.
This story follows a young playwright just finishing college and about to launch a very successful career writing plays for Broadway. On the eve of this great career’s very start, the playwright – Richard – meets an elderly woman who greets him strangely and gives him a pocket watch and leaves him with the cryptic message: “Come back to me”. Fast forward 8 years and Richard is struggling with writer’s block and emptiness courtesy of a girlfriend that has left him. Trying to clear his head, he takes a long drive and ends up at an old hotel. It is here that Richard discovers an old photograph of a beautiful woman that was a famed actress of the ‘20s that acted upon a stage right at this hotel.
The story is the backbone of this film, but the actors are the ones that carry it off. It is the sincerity of Christopher Reeves (yes, Superman!) as Richard Collier that draws you in first. He just seems like this completely earnest guy – likeable to a fault. He doesn’t come off as headstrong or foolish – just really sincere. I think many of us overlook the qualities of an actor once they are typecast (or worse still, cast in a franchise). It is best to view as much of their body of work before casting judgment, I know, but sometimes you just don’t even know they were in such a film as this. That is why I write this review: to expose Christopher Reeves other work. I hope that you with watch this film just on this recommendation alone: Reeves is truly marvelous in this role!
Jane Seymour plays the actress and she could not have been more perfectly cast. She was to me at the time I first saw this film the prettiest woman in film. I was never in love with her, but she struck me as the very embodiment of the word “pretty”. Better still, she has this demure attitude coupled with this refined dignity that comes with most British actresses. It fits so well with this role that you wonder if Matheson didn’t write this role for her specifically! Throw in Christopher Plummer as the gruff manager determined to thwart Collier at every turn and you have this magnificent trio of actors that could carry this off as a 3-person stage play!
Of course, the time travel aspect is very Romantic. The music in this film is like a trance. The score is beautiful but throughout the film is the recurring music of “Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43, Variation XVIII”. (I could not place it until I looked it up!) That makes this a haunting film, truly. I don’t know what it is with me and 1920’s and hotels but it speaks to me on MANY levels. The setting is like a fuzzy-edged picture, covered with a patina of age that suddenly comes to life.
“Somewhere in Time” ranks as a great romance film, filled with great talent that seems to echo across time itself. It is – in a word – timeless. Do yourself a favor: clear a day of chores and errands, curl up with your wife on the couch under a fuzzy blanket and savor this movie for all it is worth. You will not be disappointed! Time travel, romance, great acting, fantastic storyline, enchanting setting – what more could you ask for???
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.