Time travel romances The Time Traveler’s Wife, About Time, and Midnight in Paris will welcome a new installment to their ranks: Time Freak, a romantic comedy about heartbroken physics student Stillman (Asa Butterfield), who builds a time machine after his girlfriend Debbie (Game of Thrones and X-Men’s Sophie Turner) breaks up with him. Andrew Bowler’s forthcoming feature film is an adaptation of his Oscar-nominated short film of the same name, and will be produced by QC Entertainment/Rhodes Entertainment. But what the Deadline article doesn’t mention, but The A.V. Club seems to have cottoned on to, is Turner unwittingly joining the growing archetype of the time traveler’s girlfriend.
Rachel McAdams takes the prize for this odd bit of science fiction typecasting, having starred in the three aforementioned movies in which her partner travels back and forth through their relationship—or completely outside of it, partying in the 1920s—while she exists in linear time. In some cases, she’s aware of the time travel and at the mercies of fate; in others, she’s blissfully ignorant. Yet she’s not the only one: Mary Steenburgen and Emily Blunt have taken on the same kind of character, though at least they got to travel alongside their male love interests.
And now we have Turner, as the impetus for Stillman building his machine in the first place. Judging from the trailer for the original 11-minute film, the protagonist’s time machine is intended to help him fix every tiny mistake that screwed up his yesterday, more Groundhog Day than About Time. Sure, Debbie gets a mention in his neurotic scribbled timelines, but any romantic conundrum seems to be just one cog in what made his day not go smoothly.
It appears that the expanded feature film version of Time Freak will place much more focus on the relationship, with Stillman trying to fix every mistake he made that ended things, while dragging along his best friend Evan (Skyler Gisondo) for moral support. Which makes it sound as if Debbie will be more of a character to be acted upon, as opposed to one with her own agency. That said, we don’t know enough to judge, but fingers crossed Turner will have a bigger role. The A.V. Club puts it well: “That sounds adorable and all, but Sansa Stark deserves to be more than just an object of affection. Filming hasn’t begun yet, though, so it’s not too late for Turner and Butterfield to switch roles.” My thoughts exactly.