In the 1970s, Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) is involved in an auto accident in which his mother, Anette (Michelle Nolden), is killed and he survives by somehow traveling back in Time two weeks. He is aided by an older version of himself who has also traveled back in Time. He cannot control the timing or the destinations of his traveling. He appears at various significant moments of his life but is incapable of changing events.
In 1991, he meets Claire Abshire (Rachel McAdams) in the library where she works. He has never met her before but she seems overjoyed to see him. She tells him that she met his older self when she was a child and he told her they would meet again. Since her childhood, Henry has been her best friend. She developed a crush on him as a child and was upset to learn that he was married. Two years before, when she was 18, he kissed her and she believed he was to be her husband in the future. They begin a relationship, but his time-traveling disorder is a problem, particularly in that he always arrives stark naked.
He has always survived by picking locks and stealing clothing. Many of his getaways are visits to young Clare. In her diary, later, he finds a list of the dates when he visited her and he gives the list to her younger self so she can arrange clothing for him when he arrives. Eventually, they marry, though the guests are confused when the groom vanishes and reappears somewhat older.
In time, his disappearances take a toll on their relationship, even when he buys a winning lottery ticket with a number he saw in his travels. Another time, he arrives older and severely wounded and they begin to wonder how long he can live. They may never have a child because her unborn fetuses have a way of time traveling on their own, resulting in miscarriage. A doctor is unable to help and Henry has a vasectomy, but soon Clare is impregnated by a younger Henry and she carries the fetus to full term. He travels forward in Time and meets his pre-teen daughter Alba. She is a time traveler too but has more control over it. She tells him he died when she was five, which he keeps secret.
Alba at ten is like a sister to Alba at five, and she tries to prepare her younger self for their father’s death. Clare is devastated to learn the truth. Later, lost and naked in the forest, he is accidentally shot by Claire’s father (Philip Craig). He returns in time to die in Clare’s arms. After his death, young Henry visits Alba and Clare to give them closure.
The film was directed by Robert Schwentke, based on Audrey Niffeneggar’s 2003 novel, the script by Jeffrey Leven and Bruce Joel Rubin, who also wrote Ghost. It received mixed reviews but was a commercial success. Some critics called it melodramatic. It was shot in Hamilton, Ontario. Its release was delayed because needed reshoots were impossible when the season changed, and because Eric Bana had shaved his head to appear in Star Trek (2009). Hailey McCann, who played Alba at nine and ten, and Tatum McCann, who played her at four and five are sisters. Rachel McAdams also played the love-interest of a time-traveler in About Time, Midnight in Paris, and Doctor Strange. Often in time-travel adventures, the emotional impact of time-travel itself is given little thought, but in the romances, it is always central. This one was charming, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and as thought-provoking as you might expect from the writer of Ghost.