The Good: The acting is all right
The Bad: Dull plot, Poorly-conceived conceit, Mediocre characters
The Basics: While not truly bad, TiMER has little to recommend it.
Sometime, there is a film with an intriguing basic concept that is hard to flesh out. My wife discovered the film TiMER long before me and thought that I would like it, but the moment I sat down to it and began it, it struck me as one of those films that was tough to truly pull off. TiMER is a film that tries to explore the concept of free will vs. predestination in a new and imaginative way. The mechanism is a technological conceit and it is the root of the problems with the film TiMER.
TiMER is named after the device in the film which has become the obsession of most of its characters. The Timer is a technological device that is implanted into the forearm that has a countdown to the moment one will meet their true love. The people with timers implanted seem obsessed with finding the person who matches their countdown, while some people reject the idea that their countdown is the only possible path for them. Within seconds of the film beginning, I found myself asking, "what about those who never find true love?" and "when did everyone buy into the idea of there being only one person ever for a person to fall in love with?!" The protagonist's quest to find love when she lacks a countdown on her timer instantly made me suspect that she would simply die before finding true love.
Oona O'Leary is searching for her soulmate in a world where technology has made finding true love more or less obsolete. Oona takes her boyfriend Brian to the Timer location and when he is implanted with the device, their dates for meeting their true loves do not synch, so they break up. When Oona and her stepsister visit their family for their younger brother's Timer implantation, they are dismayed that he will find his soulmate in three days. Oona tries to adopt her sister's lifestyle by hooking up with a guy from the supermarket, but finds that she can't do it.
Despite being pushed away by her, Mikey Evers pursues Oona. After witnessing her younger brother meet the true love of his life, Oona and Mikey hook up again. When Steph discovers that Oona has been having a relationship with Mikey for months, she forces the issue. Protective of her sister, she does not want Oona to simply be left in two months, which forces Mikey to come clean with her about his countdown. After a visit to her father, Steph and Oona return to the TiMER center where Oona is faced with the choice of her lifetime; to stay with Mikey or wait for the timer-approved "One."
More than a science fiction piece, TiMER is a romantic comedy without much in the way of humor. Despite the conceit of the implanted devices, TiMER is in many ways a very typical, formulaic rom com. Oona spends her time with the "wrong guy," waiting for "Mr. Right" to pop into her life, then is given a second option who appears perfect, but ends up proving that the first guy is right. It's the formula for romantic stories that has existed since the Bronte sisters nailed it into the collective unconscious. In many ways, TiMER is a reinvention of the arguments for and against arranged marriages with a technological conceit in it.
The premise of TiMER is almost instantly challenged by Mikey and it is tough to accept that so few characters within the narrative challenge it. After ten years of people being implanted with timers, it is hard to believe that more people haven't killed themselves as a result. TiMER belabors the positive qualities of the timer, but almost immediately my mind leapt to the idea of what happens when people are not with their "One" or realize that their One can have feelings for other people. Oona's father is referenced as a mistake relationship - the timer led to the divorce between Marion and Rick - and Jesse has a concerned glance when Soledad knows things about Mikey's band. Jesse being young and twitchy seems to foreshadow a potential disastrous end to him which seemed like it would be common in a timer-filled world.
Despite the loads of conceptual problems, TiMER is performed well-enough to not feel unpleasant to watch. Emma Caulfield illustrates range as Oona that she did not get to play as Anya for her years on Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!). Caulfield is passionate and smart as Oona. Especially at the climax, Caulfield exhibits range and passion that her most popular work did not afford her. Caulfield and co-stars John Patrick Amedori and Michelle Borth have wonderful on-screen chemistry. Caulfield and Borth play a sisterly love so perfectly that it makes the viewer wonder why more movies don't try to illustrate genuine familial bonds. Amedori and Caulfield play passion well and with a realism that makes viewers believe in their relationship as viable long before Oona realizes it could be.
If nothing else, TiMER effectively illustrates that there are different types of love and banking on one type of romantic love is as futile as allowing technology to define our emotions. It remains, a tough sell as a film, though. TiMER is not bad, but it left me with a "ho-hum" feeling as opposed to being truly thrilled. That is the way I end up feeling about most romantic movies, though, where I figure out the formulaic ending long before the characters. TiMER might not spoon-feed the end to the viewer, but the truth is, by the time the final credits rolled, while I was not bored, I just did not care.
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© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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