A Wrinkle in Time

The author who penned A Wrinkle in Time in the early 1960s had been working at getting her works published for years, but not until being rejected nearly 30 times did Madeleine L’Engle finally get the break she needed. Her novel has not gone out of print since it was first published, but experienced varied reactions from the public because of the mixing together of faith, science and fantasy. Her magical world has been waiting to get to theatres, but finally gets to break out across the globe with this modern re-telling of the classic work.

The Murrys are an odd family who see life through a different lens due to the work of physicist Dr Alexander Murry (Chris Pine) and his microbiologist wife, Dr Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Their study of time and space lead them to discover a means of travelling through the time/space continuum by merely tuning themselves to the right frequency of the universe. They were a close-knit family until the day of the arrival of their adopted son, Charles Wallace (Deric McAbe), which coincidently becomes the date when Alex Murry mysteriously disappears.

Four years later, his family is struggling to cope with his absence, especially their thirteen-year-old daughter, Meg (Storm Reid). Despite being brilliant in science herself, she has had a difficult time adjusting to the loss of her father and it is reflected in her relationships and schoolwork. Some of these problems come from other kids taunting her at school and the anxiety of dealing with her brother, who she adores, but seems to be wise beyond his six years.

Then one strange day after school, a classmate Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) follows them home for no apparent reason and then a stranger arrives at the family home. A bizarre, but whimsical woman dressed all in white, the astral traveller Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), is invited in by Charles Wallace and announces that it is time to find their father through his discovery, the tesseract.

For fans of the book, if they squint and look hard at the film, a remnant of the original story may be recognisable. The famed characters are all present, but this remastering on the original material will leave most Madeleine L’Engle devotees less than satisfied. The only advantage these readers will have over all other audience members is a knowledge of what is meant to be expressed on the screen.

This visual spectacle is a smorgasbord of colour and effects which proves to be the one positive aspect of the film. Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) has taken the concept of a 50-year-old novel and applies modern effects to the transcendent world of Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs Whatsit, and Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) that is reminiscent of Avatar and Epic. These elements coupled with a beautiful depiction of the central family’s relationships and love for one another give this production hope and potential, but it does not prove to be enough to save it from its intentions.

Those familiar with the book will say that this story is near to impossible to depict with any authenticity on screen. The story folds in on itself and becomes an unrecognisable mess as it progresses. The pseudo-Christian elements of the original novel are replaced with transcendental meditation and Oprah-esque guidance on self-belief. The exceptional cast seems to struggle to know what to do with their ridiculous costumes and besides a few motivational speeches, the majority of the dialogue provide little structure or believability. After a while, it becomes so difficult to follow that it delivers laughs where they are not meant to be and groans whenever the former talk show host opens her mouth.

A Wrinkle in Time is a visually spectacular mess that is not worth anyone’s time. Instead of going to see this film, it would be a better use of the precious minutes of your life by going to the local used bookstore, finding an older edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel and going and sitting on a beach to contemplate the wonders of this world. If anything, this movie will encourage people to read books again.

What should I know as a parent before going to A Wrinkle in Time? 

What looks like a story of youthful empowerment is really masking a message of self-belief. Even though there is an undertone of family and love, the story is overshadowed by a bizarre look into the world of spirituality that excludes God completely.

‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.’ 1 John 2:15

Also, director Ava DuVernay says that the design of the story was for 8-11 year-olds, but the whole experience is challenging for adults to grasp. Between the mixed message of the screenplay and the indiscernible elements, it makes this a film that most families should give a miss. For the sake of the family’s time, it would be better to read the original novel together and have some fascinating discussions about family, time, love and real sacrifice.

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.