Somewhere in Time

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"Come back to me."

Jan 14, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Gentle love story with spectacular footage of Mackinac Island

Cons:Some plot holes. Also, if you hate sappy movies, you'll hate this, too.

The Bottom Line: Somewhere in Time would appear to be a lackluster time travel romance, but magic happens when combined with a stellar soundtrack and beautiful footage of Mackinac Island.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

I'm not sure how old I was the first time I watched our beat-up VHS copy of Somewhere in Time; it had to be several years after my first visit to Mackinac Island at age four. Over the years, I’ve come to greatly appreciate the nuances (and standalone merits) of this most gentle and unique love story.

The charming time-travel love story Somewhere in Time is based on Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return. The book is a deeply rewarding journey that reaches nuances and depths not present in the screen version, and is worth reading to compare. In the screen adaptation Somewhere in Time, Matheson also served as the screenwriter, lending the movie an unerring fidelity to the original work.

Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve in his first role after Superman) is a modern-day playwright in Chicago. As the film opens at a cast party for his latest work, an elderly woman walks up to him, instantly hushing the celebratory atmosphere, and deposits an engraved pocket watch in his hand, muttering, “come back to me.” Richard brushes this off as the ravings of a senile woman until later, when a photograph shatters his indifference. Later, Richard seeks a weekend escape at Mackinac Island, Michigan after hitting the wall on his new work.

Once checked into the Grand Hotel (one of the world’s largest vintage summer resorts, with the world’s longest covered patio facing Lake Michigan), he is haunted by the sensual photograph of a beautiful woman in the Grand Hotel's Hall of History, and races to dig up any and all information on the luminous beauty (leading to some fabulous shots of recognizable structures on Mackinac Island). Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) was a promising young stage actress managed by the dour, possessive W.F. Robinson (Christopher Plummer). Richard toys with the idea of self-hypnosis to travel back to 1912 in order to meet Elise when she was performing at the Grand Hotel, and after several attempts, he succeeds (or is it only the product of a desperate and haunted imagination?), and begins a slow wooing of Elise. Humorous “fish out of water” mishaps plague modern-day Richard, including wearing an antique suit that was already an antique by 1912, and the dangers of shaving with a straight razor.

The phrase “love at first sight” doesn’t quite capture the haunting sense of déjà vu when Richard first speaks to Elise on the shore of Lake Michigan. A stricken Elise simply asks, “Is it you?” and Richard answers yes. It’s as though the two have known each other for decades, or at least sensed the other’s presence (the mechanics of said time travel, including the “pocket watch loophole,” are shaky at best). Their courtship is nearly thwarted by the machinations of the insanely jealous Robinson, who views Elise as his protégée (and property).

The bittersweet romance comes to a tragic end, much in the same vein as The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (which is a very similar ghost love story set in coastal England, but minus the time travel), but ultimately has a fulfilling ending.

The cinematography of the 1912 portion is appropriately dreamy, with soft light permeating outdoor shots. The film’s soundtrack by John Barry is quite possibly the most romantic I’ve ever heard, centered around a Rachmaninoff variation on a theme by Paganini. Somewhere in Time was quite literally the soundtrack of my youth; we would play it on trips to Northern Michigan, and on Mackinac Island in particular. Even if you never see the movie, it's worth purchasing the rerecorded Somewhere In Time soundtrack.

Reeve, Seymour, and Plummer all put in heartfelt performances, and the true star of the show is Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel in particular. Although long valued as a Midwest summer resort, Mackinac Island became an international tourist destination with the cult status of Somewhere in Time.

The 20th-anniversary DVD features a one-hour documentary on the making of Somewhere in Time, with new interviews by the late Christopher Reeve (after being paralyzed from the neck down after a horseback accident in 1995), Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer, and other actors and crewmembers including director Jeannot Szwarc. Also included are cast and crew bios, production stills and notes, an audio commentary by Szwarc (I haven’t listened to it yet, so I can’t comment), a still photo gallery, the original theatrical trailer, and a segment on INSITE, the International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts. All in all, the bonus features lend new depth for diehard fans of the movie, but will probably not interest casual fans.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD

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