Somewhere in Time is a 1980 American romantic fantasy drama film released on 3 October, 1980 from Universal Pictures, directed by Jeannot Szwarc, and starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer. It is a film adaptation of the novel Bid Time Return (1975) by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay. Reeve and Seymour fell in love and had a brief relationship during production.
In 1972, college theater student Richard Collier(played by Christopher Reeve) celebrates the debut of his new play. An elderly woman approaches him, places a pocket watch in his hand, and pleads, "Come back to me". After returning to her home, she dies in her sleep.
Eight years later, Richard is a successful playwright living in Chicago. While struggling with writer's block, he decides to take a break and travel to a resort, the Grand Hotel. There he becomes enthralled with a vintage photograph of Elise McKenna(played by Jane Seymour), an early-20th century stage actress. She turns out to be the woman who gave him the pocket watch.
Richard visits Laura Roberts, Elise's former housekeeper and companion, and discovers a music box that plays the 18th variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff, his favorite musical piece. Among Elise's personal effects is a book on time travel written by his old college professor, Dr. Gerard Finney. Having fallen in love with Elise, Richard becomes obsessed with traveling back to 1912 and meeting her.
He seeks out Professor Finney, who believes that he briefly time-traveled through the power of self-suggestion. Dressed in an early 20th-century suit, Richard attempts to will himself to 1912 using tape-recorded suggestions. The attempt fails because he lacks real conviction, but after finding a hotel guest book from 1912 containing his signature, he realizes that he will succeed.
He hypnotizes himself again, allowing his faith in his eventual success to serve as the engine that transports him back in time. When he awakes in 1912, he finds Elise walking by the lake. Upon meeting him, she asks, "Is it you?” Her manager, William Fawcett Robinson(played by Christopher Plummer), intervenes and sends Richard away.
Although Elise is initially uninterested, Richard pursues her until she agrees to accompany him on a stroll the next morning. He asks what Elise meant by "Is it you?" Elise reveals that Robinson had predicted that she would meet a man who will change her life and that she should be afraid. Richard shows Elise the pocket watch that she will give him in 1972.
Richard attends Elise's play where she recites an impromptu romantic monologue while making eye contact with him. Afterward, he receives a message from Robinson requesting a meeting. Robinson wants him to leave Elise, saying it is for her own good. When Richard declares his intention to stand by Elise for the rest of her life, Robinson has him bound and locked inside the stables. He then tells Elise that Richard has left.
Richard wakes the next morning and frees himself. The acting troupe has left for Denver, though Elise has returned to the hotel to find him. They go to her room and make love.
They agree to marry, and Elise promises to buy Richard a new suit, as his is out of style. Inside one of the suit pockets, Richard discovers a penny with a 1979 mint date. This modern item breaks the hypnotic suggestion, pulling Richard into the present.
He awakens in 1980, physically weakened by the time travel. His attempts to return to 1912 are unsuccessful. After despondently wandering the hotel grounds for weeks without eating, he dies in despair. Richard’s spirit then joins Elise in the afterlife.
Although the film was well received during its previews, it was derided by critics upon release and underperformed at the box office.
The film is known for its musical score composed by John Barry, featuring pianist Roger Williams. The 18th variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is also used several times.
Thanks to cable television the film garnered a huge fan audience and interest in the music score. So many requests were made at record stores across the country that Universal pressed 500,000 more copies and the soundtrack, now into several pressings, still sells well on compact disc. The music became one of the most requested at weddings for a decade after the film's release.
Somewhere in Time received several awards, including Saturn Awards for Best Costume, Best Music, and Best Fantasy Film. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Jean-Pierre Dorleac).
The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in these lists:
2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated
2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated