Review: TiMER (15) / Director: Jac Schaeffer / Screenplay: Jay Schaeffer / Starring: Emma Caulfield, John Patrick Amedori, Scott Holroyd / Release date: January 30th
Like it or not we live in a world of constant time pressures. Work gives us nothing but deadlines and targets to be met. There is then the added pressure to settle down, buy a house and start pumping out children like some kind of conveyor belt. Then of course there is the pressure to find ‘the one’ whomever that may be and naturally if you don’t do this before you are thirty then you are seen as some kind of social misfit.
All this is background to a 24-7 world where time is always of the essence. It’s no coincidence that dating websites have become huge business for struggling young professionals who don’t have time to waste on things like a social life. TiMER is a film that takes this world to its next logical step and whilst it never really fully explores the interesting idea at its core, it’s still a witty and entertaining romantic comedy, head and shoulders above most other rom-coms out there.
The next phase of online dating has become the ‘Timer’ a digital device implanted into your wrist that counts down to the moment when you meet ‘the one’, your soul mate with whom you will spend the rest of your life. Everybody has one attached from the time they are about 14 until they find that one special person. Things like divorce and heartbreak are a thing of the past thanks to this new system. Single orthodontist Oona (Emma Caulfield) has a timer that is blank indicating she will not meet her soul mate any time soon. Rapidly approaching thirty, Oona goes out with any man she meets and insists they get a timer just so she can confirm whether they are the one or not. One day she meets charming shop clerk/musician Mikey (John Patrick Amedori) and is taken with his affection for her as well as his easy going philosophy. This relationship breaks all of Oona’s personal rules and Mikey’s timer is set for four months’ time indicating that Oona isn’t his soul mate. Nevertheless their chemistry and feelings for each other go against every rule that the world now lives by. Things get complicated when a widower (Desmond Harrington) is brought home by Oona’s sister Steph (Michelle Borth) and Oona’s timer goes off throwing everything into doubt.
Timer shows us a believable world and for the most part this is handled quite well, sort of like a romantic comedy version of In TiMER. Sadly, like In Time, this film doesn’t really fully explore its neat central idea either. There are some indications that the timer device works via body heat but it’s never fully explained how, leaving some doubt as to the conviction of the screenwriter. There are also indications that divorce has been completely eliminated in this world by a line of dialogue from a supporting character. The impacts of this are never really mentioned as I’m sure there would be some kind of ripple effect through law firms and the celebrity gossip industry whose livelihood seems to be in the misery caused by divorce.
Where TiMER does score is in its exploration of what the device means to things like spontaneity and those chance encounters that would be discounted as worthless if a wrist device didn’t go off. I think dating websites are a great thing and they have helped a great many people but I have always felt that by typing all of your specific information into a database which a computer then matches with someone you eliminate some of the organic process that can be called things like ‘ships in the night’, or when you refer to ‘sparks flying’ when you meet a new person and have chemistry with them. By meeting someone through a perfect compatibility system you eliminate the possibility of ever having those little tiffs and arguments that add the fire to the relationship and that make things all the sweeter when you eventually make up again. The film takes this into consideration as you watch a character so beholden to the device on her wrist that she almost throws away the chance for happiness several times. There are occasions during the movie when you just want to grab the characters and shake them up so that they don’t do something silly based on a wrist watch.
This being a romantic comedy, you would think that it would connect the dots and follow the typical three-act arc that leads to the main character learning a lesson and everything being wrapped up in typical happy fashion. Without going into spoiler territory, it is refreshing to say that whilst lessons are indeed learnt, TiMER will not end the way that you think. Emma Caulfield (Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is another one of the former Scooby Gang who has never really broken out into stardom and is arguably the most talented. Not only is she cute as a button but she is also very likeable, making this role sing when in another actress's hands it could have been annoying. Whilst the character has echoes of Bridget Jones and is similar to the heroine of many a rom-com, the fact that we don’t see Caulfield that much make it feel refreshing.
It’s been a long time since this writer has seen a romantic comedy that's actually enjoyable, and the fact that this one has a very real message at the core and manages to make you think is something to be encouraged. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, TiMER is a likeable and smart film that is ideally suited for an evening with your loved one.