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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Time Traveler's Wife

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana star in a scene from the movie "The Time Traveler's Wife."
At its core the enjoyable tale of a lifelong committed relationship, "The Time Traveler's Wife" (Warner Bros.) benefits from persuasive central performances by Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams as a pair of chronologically challenged lovers, turns that successfully divert attention from the story's logical loose ends.
 
But director Robert Schwentke's romantic drama also features some behavior that would clearly be objectionable in a less far-fetched context than that provided by its fantasy premise.
 
Bana plays Chicago rare books librarian Henry DeTamble. Henry is afflicted with a unique genetic disorder that causes him to disappear from the present and travel—involuntarily and randomly—through time. So when he first encounters McAdams' character, artist Clare Abshire, she's a total stranger to him, though—thanks to repeated visits his future self will pay to her past, beginning when she was six—he's already her best friend and one true love.
 
The script, adapted from novelist Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 best-seller by Bruce Joel Rubin—who penned 1990s similarly supernatural "Ghost"—eventually implies that Clare also knows for certain at this point that she and Henry will ultimately wed. If so, the first-date bedroom encounter that she aggressively initiates must be considered premarital relations of a unique kind.
 
Whenever Henry is transported, his clothes stay behind and he appears in the new moment naked. This circumstance not only entails a few scenes of rear nudity, but drives Henry to break into buildings or cars and steal other people's clothing in order to cover himself.
 
A plot development dealing with sterilization seems to imply that it may be wrong in the situation portrayed, but not as a general matter.
 
In addition to his faithful love for Clare, Henry cherishes the memory of his opera singer mother and has a nurturing, though strained, connection with his father (Arliss Howard) whose grief-motivated drinking endangers his career as a violinist.
 
Yet there is no suggestion that either of them had Henry's condition, or knew of anyone perching on a higher branch of the family tree who might have bequeathed it to him.
 
The idea of a 20- or 30-something Henry befriending the childhood version of his future wife -- and kindling her love for him -- will strike some as romantic, others perhaps as creepy. But the dialogue explicitly makes the point that their first kiss comes when Clare is 18.
 
The film contains brief nongraphic premarital sexual activity, rear nudity, a sterilization theme, a few uses of profanity, and some crude and crass language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
 
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.




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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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