A matter of time

Working with the passage of time in movies is a challenge for all filmmakers as it can so easily look awkward, be confusing or come across trite.
So just how do you tell a story that is as much about a character’s past as it is about his future - and do it well? 

The Notebook

The Notebook starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams cleverly uses a book within a film to drive the narrative, with Noah Calhoun’s elderly self reading an achingly beautiful story of timeless love from, you guessed it, a notebook. It moves with natural ease and the journey the viewer takes from pre-war young romance to present day love is an enthralling one. 

The Sense of An Ending

The Sense of an Ending is based on Julian Barnes’ bestselling novel and has a challenge straight away. The novel is narrated by the main character, Tony Webster, but the film is not. So conveying Tony’s past and his memory of it needed to be handled with a deft touch.  Director Ritesh Batra answered the challenge by showing both the younger and older Tony Webster walking in the same rooms, looking out the same car windows, seeing the same view - connecting the two so that time, in a sense, has not passed, even if the memory of it has been embellished. As the trailer teases, “what you remember is only half the story” and this fascinating premise is what makes this film so worth seeing.

About Time
Source: [Working Title Films]

About Time doesn’t have the dilemma of memory vs reality because the lead character Tim Lake can, at any moment in his past, jump back in time and revisit it. What a concept – and a handy skill! The mind boggles at the possibilities yet the transitions happen quite effortlessly. Lots of fun is had in this Richard Curtis film (writer and director of Love Actually) as Tim’s time travelling allows him to return to his past over and over again to perfect the meeting and seduction of his one true love. 

The Time Travellers wife

The Time Traveller’s Wife 
Unlike Tim in About Tim, Henry De Tamble has no control over his time travelling and without warning can find himself in the past or the future. His transitions from one period to another are fairly simple but trying to get your head around the implications of his time travelling hurts the head at times and it must have been a mindbender for the make-up and production teams, let alone the actors. But major kudos to Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams who manage to capture with authenticity the angst and joy of a relationship constantly in limbo.

Woman in Gold
Source: [BBC Films]

Woman in Gold
Made by the producers of The Sense of an Ending, this is the true story of Maria Altman (Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish woman determined to reclaim her family’s art treasures stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The artworks are located in Vienna but Maria is reluctant to revisit the city she remembers with heartbreak. When she does eventually return, flashbacks to her childhood and youth are beautifully and painfully portrayed. You feel Maria’s intense anguish when she revisits her former home and walks through the same streets which, decades before, were walked in fear. It is a triumph of a movie with co-star Ryan Reynolds holding his own – no mean feat with Mirren on song in this emotionally charged movie.

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