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The playwright Richard Collier
On the eve of his success,
Is met by an old woman
In emotional distress.
She gifts him with a watch
And an entreaty to return,
Then disappears to die that night,
And why he can’t discern.
Years later, Richard takes a drive
And finds the Grand Hotel,
An antique venue lost in time
With friendly personnel.
He notices a photograph
Of beauty unsurpassed:
Elise McKenna, actress,
And the woman he saw last.
Obsessed with her expression,
He does research on a dime
And is convinced that, with his mind,
He’ll travel back in time.
He does so with some effort;
With more, he wins her heart,
But Miss McKenna’s manager
Tries keeping them apart.
Their love grows ever stronger
And cannot be suppressed,
Until time’s rules divide them,
Leaving both of them depressed.
The broken hearts of Richard
And his sweet of decades past
End up uniting both of them
In timeless love at last.

Yes, Somewhere in Time made me cry the first time. Time travel always has great potential as a story device, and allowing it to create tragic romance is a natural result. The film wasn’t particularly well-received at first, but over time has garnered a collection of avid fans, known officially as INSITE, the International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts, half of whom happen to be men. Thus, I’m not ashamed in the least to be touched by such a potentially sappy tearjerker.

Shedding his Superman persona from his previous film, Christopher Reeve plays hopeless romantic Richard Collier in possibly the most moving performance of his career. It may sound corny, but fate seems to guide him to his true love’s photo, driving him to zealously search for information about her and how he may connect with her. Some might consider this obsessive, but the all-consuming promise of romance excuses such complaints. When he finally reaches 1912, love grows naturally but quickly as he makes himself irresistibly charming to Miss McKenna, played by Jane Seymour, as always the epitome of feminine elegance. Christopher Plummer portrays her possessive manager, whose intentions are more benign and complex than a typical villain, though no less domineering. At times, the rather simple script could have fallen flat in the hands of lesser actors, but all three leads are distinguished.

As far as time travel goes, there are no time machines, police boxes, or DeLoreans; Richard leaps through decades with… hypnosis, which is not the most convincing of methods but still carries the requisite paradoxes and unforeseen complications. In addition to the dripping romanticism, it manages some quiet humor while avoiding the typical fish-out-of-water scenarios. Shot predominately on Michigan’s Mackinac Island, the cinematography is also lovely, often reminiscent of a faded watercolor painting. Then there’s the haunting music that sticks in one’s head long after the credits roll. Somewhere in Time did for Rachmaninoff what Ghost did for “Unchained Melody”; the flowing strains of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini immediately conjure up the film’s emotions.

I am always deeply touched by reunions, by friends and loved ones meeting again after heartache on both sides. It is these homecomings that often enhance the endings of “Meet ‘em and Move On” films; they’re what make difficult films like Slumdog Millionaire and The Color Purple worth watching. The “together forever” kind of conclusion particularly has a special power that reinforces the tearjerker status of stories like Wuthering Heights, Grave of the Fireflies, and Titanic. Somewhere in Time’s final scene is just so depressingly romantic that it still brings my VC to tears. Simply beautiful.

Best line: (Richard, with a mock pick-up line that I must try sometime) “Young woman, if you do not walk with me, I shall go mad! Positively insane, and do crazed things to myself!”

Rank: 55 out of 60

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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