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Movie Review

Somewhere in Time

MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for adult Situations and some language

Reviewed by: Debbie James

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Romance Drama
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
1980, Re-release: 2000
USA Release:
Poster for “Somewhere in Time”
Featuring: Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer, Teresa Wright, Bill Erwin, George Voskovec, Susan French, John Alvin, Eddra Gale
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Producer: Steven Simon
Distributor: Universal City Studios, Inc.

“Somewhere in Time” is being re-released in selected theaters across the U.S. My husband and I were fortunate enough to get an invitation to Universal’s 20th Anniversary private showing of this movie in New York City. It was through an organization called INSITE (International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts). In addition to the media, Universal Studio executives, and INSITE members present, special guests for the evening were actors Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Teresa Wright, and producer Steven Simon. Prior to the showing of the movie all special guests spoke to the audience of their love for the movie, with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour relating that it was a high point in their careers and all agreeing that it was a labor of love, and not just another job.

Scene from “Somewhere In Time” In the movie “Somewhere in Time”, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) is a successful Chicago playwright who gets frustrated during a phase of writer’s block, and takes off for parts unknown. He ends up at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, where he is captivated by a stunningly beautiful portrait on display at the hotel. He discovers that she was a famous actress who’d performed at the hotel theater sixty years ago and becomes obsessed with finding out any thing he can about her.

He learns of a way that he can transport himself back in time from a former professor of his from college and spends much energy attempting to travel to 1912 where he hopes to meet the woman in the portrait, Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). The time-travel method used here is rather unusual. There are no special effects, machines, gadgets, or surreal images. He is transported into another time simply by surrounding himself with articles of that time period and willing himself there. The method used is so successful, that the viewer feels as if he’s making the trip along with Richard Collier.

There isn’t much offensive material in this movie. Language is mild (5 words) and there are 8 uses of “God” or “Christ.” There is one instance of implied premarital sex (characters have bare shoulders in bed).

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan, USA The filming location was spectacular (the magnificent Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan). Amazingly, only a few scenes were shot in Chicago; the rest of the filming took place on the island. The soundtrack by John Barry was the most moving we’d ever heard and, coupled with an incredible piece of music by Rachmaninoff, sets the mood of the movie. The costuming was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to “Tess” that year. Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour have great chemistry on-screen and they are very believable as the characters they portray.

The first time we saw this movie was in 1981 on cable and we were immediately captivated by it. We were so taken with this movie and its setting that we dreamed of someday going to Mackinac Island and staying at the Grand Hotel. And, just recently, we realized that dream. On Mackinac Island, no automobiles are permitted and you truly feel like you’ve stepped into another time. The only transportation available are horses, bicycles, and walking. (Special permission was obtained for automobiles in the movie). The Grand Hotel is brimming with antiques and colorful, luxurious decor. It is such a relaxing and beautiful place. Just imagine falling asleep to the sound of the waves on the shore and horses clip-clopping by the hotel, and the fresh breeze gently fluffing the curtains! The movie is very popular on the island (understandably so, since the island has obviously benefited from the tourism the movie has generated). The “Somewhere in Time” fan club (INSITE) meets at the Grand Hotel every October for their annual convention.

“Somewhere in Time” received mostly bad reviews during its brief three-week run in the theaters, yet has amassed quite a following and has risen to cult-status. It is one of the few movies which has generated a fan club. Despite the negative reviews, “Somewhere in Time” fans agree… it is a classic.

Viewer Comments
I saw this movie in 1994. It wasn’t a very memorable experience for me. I remember I wasn’t all that impressed with the story itself or the romance. Now, I look a good romance as well as the next person, but to me, this movie just didn’t live up to my expectations. I found it to be extremely slow moving, overly sentimental and very dull. If you are looking for a good romance, there are much better ones than this film. The acting is wonderful, but the movie itself leaves much to be desired. My Ratings: [Good / 4]
Lisa, age 24
I understand that there are clubs that celebrate the romance of this movie by having conventions and dressing up like the characters. I’m still wondering what they see in this movie. The only thing romantic about this movie is the Michigan location where they filmed most of it (the other location was Chicago). Otherwise, the pace is slow, and the plot is silly. There are better romance movies to see on video. My Ratings: [Good / 1]
Hillari Hunter, age 38
Other commentors are “right on” as to this film’s drawbacks. The belief that premarital sex is a necessary part of a budding relationship (rather than a threat to it) would probably not have been held by any woman in 1912, not even a “liberal” stage performer like Elise. And the absurdities of backward time travel—Richard is confronted by the aged Elise saying “come back to me,” then time-traveller Richard butts into young Elise’s life; so which came first, the chicken or the egg?—play dangerous mind-games on people, especially in an emotional film. One other thing, since the tourism angle was mentioned: Mackinac Island IS a great spot to visit, but don’t expect to go on the cheap. It costs an arm and a leg to stay at the Grand Hotel, an arm to eat there, and a few fingers just to stand on the porch. My Ratings: [3/4]
Brett Willis, age 50
This is a very sweet, clean romance film which is something you barely see in released in Hollywood. A movie you could recommend to someone with out having to warn them about heavy sexual content or language. So I recommend this movie to anyone who likes sweet romance storyies. My Ratings: [3½/4½]
Melissa, age 15
This movie is a mixed bag. On the plus side, Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve put in perhaps their best and most romantic performances ever. The acting is superb, and the cinematography haunting. There is a poetry and beauty to this movie that cannot be denied. The basic idea of time travel is well developed from a science fiction point of view, and the human implications vivid. But on the negative side, this movie uses as the means of time-travel the “just believe” religion of delusion that was outdated even when it came out 20 years ago. The idea, you see, is that anything is true as long as we just believe hard enough that it is. Since this is not what the “world spirit” is saying just now, it seems rather silly to our modern sensibilities… and it is painful to sit through the “sermon” scenes. But perhaps this is illustrative of the ephemeral religious sermonizing that sells so well in today’s movie fashion (i.e.: Yoda’s “the Force” sermons). Still, it is poignant to remember just how daffy the delusional pop-religion of the 80’s was; small wonder it did not last long! And of course they have illicit sex before marriage. So, if you can endure the delusion-as-truth dogma and the ever present Hollywood sex-before-marriage, this is otherwise a compelling love-story and film. My Ratings: [3/5]
Dean and Laura VanDruff, age 40 and 30
What a terrible movie! From a Christian standpoint, OK—there are more offensive movies out there. It’s got some stuff I wouldn’t want my children seeing, but it’s not terribly offensive. Morally, that is. From a quality point of view, I rank this movie somewhere between Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Sappy, overacted, and just plain unbelievable! Not to mention the worst ending to a movie ever (and this includes James Cameron’s The Abyss). If you enjoy good movies and perfer your own personal sanity, avoid this claptrap like the plague it is! My Ratings: [3/1]
Scott Ward, age 28
I Loved this movie! It was sooo romantic and I love fantasy. I know you can’t travel in time, but I just think it helped the movie seem more sweet that he traveled back in time to find a woman he loved. It did have pre-marital sex which was disappointing, but other than that I really enjoyed it… I love things set back in the early 1900’s because of the way people dressed and talked and it wasn’t so dirty back then so I also think the time setting made it better. I Loved it! My Ratings: [3½/5]
Rachel, age 14
I was rather surprised that the review stated there was very little innofensive material in this film. It supports the idea of reincarnation, premaritial sex, and life after death—not the Christian kind, but the ghostly kind. I rented it just to see Jane Seymour, and the film was beautiful in its own way, but not really recommendable for easily-influenced audiences. I was disappointed in the overall message, for the costuming and setting was beautiful, and in the time era that I adore—1912. As stated in a personal review elsewhere, “it’s merely the ‘Titanic’ of our parents' generation.” My Ratings: [3½/3½]
Charity, age 17