Somewhere In Time (1980) – A Review
Present day Chicago playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) has been experiencing a bit of writer’s block. He decides to step away from his typewriter and a break and some time away from the city might do him some good. He ends up booking a stay at the historic Grand Hotel in Michigan.
Wandering the hotel Reeve discovers a photograph of early 20th century stage actress Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). He becomes obsessed with this image of the beautiful actress. He researches her, visits elderly friends of hers and tries to learn all he can about her. Even after learning she had died several years earlier he can’t shake the connection he feels with her.
Richard then attempts to travel back in time over seventy years to 1912 to be able to meet Elise at a time when she was also a guest at the Grand Hotel – and miraculously somehow he awakens in the past.
Richard and Elsie meet, fall in love and have a fantastical romance that is unexpected to both of them. But are these two souls from different time periods truly meant to be?
Famed writer Richard Matheson adapted the script from his novel Bid Time Return. Director Jeannot Szwarc (Jaws 2, Supergirl) amps up this romance and crafts a touching love story that packs more of an emotional wallop than you could hope to ever find in any Hallmark movie.
It’s no surprise Somewhere In Time, although not a box office success upon its initial release, has gained a devoted cult following since then. Ironically, it took time for people to discover it.
Does it make sense, well…best not to think too much about the time travel aspect to it. There’s not a lot of science going on with time machines, souped up DeLoreans, time paradoxes or anything like that. This is a romantic fantasy, Reeve being able to leap back over seventy years is a story device. Just accept that and allow yourself to get swept up into it.
It all starts with that mesmerizing portrait of Elsie hanging in the hotel. He’s captivated by this woman, but doesn’t fully know why. He begins to try to learn everything he can about her. An informative visit to Elsie’s friend played by Teresa Wright affirms this strange connection he has to this woman in the past and his crazy idea of trying to travel back in time to meet her.
It’s the start of the film some time travel seeds start to get planted. You know the type of things. Seemingly insignificant items that will pay off in a ‘wrap around’ way once this trip to the past takes place. They earn a whole more emotional meaning when we see the whole story fall into place.
As I said, the time travel aspects and explanation to the story are pretty nonexistent. It basically amounts to Richard willing himself to awaken in a different time.
It’s probably the simplest and least expensive method of time travel any story could have. I think if this were ever a viable means of time travel, history books would be really goofed up by modern day folks waking up all over the place in different times throughout the ages.
So, he’s in 1912 at the Grand Hotel, wearing the vintage clothing he acquired, Richard sets out to find Elsie. Thanks to all his research he knows she’s scheduled to perform a play at the hotel and some information that will come in handy.
Fortunately for Richard and us this trip was worth it and there are immediate sparks between the two. At first Elsie is apprehensive towards Richard, but he didn’t make this trip just to be quietly turned away. His persistence pays off and Elsie gradually begins to get intrigued by this stranger in the brown suit.
Seymour is as elegant and beautiful as ever. I always thought she had an enduring look about her. She could look comfortable playing in contemporary and period films. Seymour could play a Bond Girl, a western doctor in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman or Marie Antoinette.
If you were going to travel back in time to meet a woman, Seymour seems like a perfect candidate to make the journey for.
Reeve is really good. While he might forever be first and foremost known as Superman, Somewhere in Time shows he didn’t need a cape to be charming. He was quite adept at light comedy and could kill it in the romance department.
It’s not just the time difference that will be a hurdle for these these time-crossed lovers. Christopher Plummer plays Elsie’s manager. He’s been watching over since she was a teen, grooming her for stardom and won’t allow anyone to complicate the future he has mapped out for her or jeopardize all that they’ve worked for.
This is more than just an overprotective mentor. Reeve realizes he’s not just controlling her career, but her life as well. Plummer eyes this stranger with narrow eyes, is not welcoming to him at all and conveys arrogant contempt towards him that Plummer can do so well. He does his best to steer his protege away from what he feels a threat to her.
How can she possibly just throw that all away for a man she just met? The different time periods they come from seems like a minor inconvenience compared to getting Elsie out from under Plummer’s hold.
The film has a nice leisurely pace. It manages to capture the time period of 1912 very well. The picturesque locations that they used enhance the romantic atmosphere – the timeless look of the hotel, the lake, the lighthouse. All places that could still exist decades later that one could look at and reflect fondly back on special moments that had happened there.
It’s clear it’s not an expensive film with a big budget, so there’s no huge sweeping shots to sell the period. At times it looks quaint and TV movie-ish, but it manages to overcome it’s limitations and effectively convey that Richard is walking around this hotel in the early twentieth century.
It is sappy and has some of those romantic cliches that we see in many romantic films, but here they feel fresher than they deserve to. Perhaps it’s the unique premise that helps them, or the actors or dialogue make it all easier to accept. But it all works remarkably well.
Reeve and Seymour are so charming together you can’t help but get swept up in this romantic tale – and many fans over the years really have!
Somewhere In Time has gained devoted fans who have captured the. There have been ann annual event held at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, where they filmed the movie in 1979. The hotel has embraced its connection to the film and host annual event to celebrate it.
Fans can book a stay, dress in period costumes, walk the halls and paths where scenes were filmed and listen to invited guests who worked on the film. Seymour herself has attended the event several times through the years.
It’s quite remarkable considering when the film was first released it was vitally ignored by everyone. It’s apparent there’s something about the story and film that has touched fans.
Death, tragedy, soul mates coming together across time, the enduring power of love. You got a beautiful location, classical music pieces, a sweeping romantic score by none other than John Barry, elaborate period costumes that harken back to a time long gone (I suspect all those fans of Dowton Abby might enjoy that aspect of Somewhere In Time).
And how such a small seemingly insignificant item can shatter an epic romance. I don’t think they’ll ever sell a ‘Somewhere In Time change dish’.
There’s a lot to make your heart swoon, get invested in this love story and hope these two characters will be given a happy ending.
There is something magical about the story and the filmmakers and actors captured the perfect tone for it to make it as timeless a love story for audiences as it is for Richard and Elsie.