TiMER Movie Review – Tribeca Film Festival

We’re giving our lives over to technology more and more each day, but what if a new level in our ability to give up responsibility for our own future hit the market? Would we take it? What might it mean if we did?

These are the questions behindĀ TiMER, a film that brings you a world in which finding your soulmate has all the guesswork taken out of it. Just head over to a TiMER shop, and get an implant in your wrist. The clock starts counting down to the day that you will meet your one true love, and when you do, both your TiMERs will alert you to the happy event.

Of course, there are a few snags involved in the lifelong happiness equation. Your soulmate has to have a TiMER, otherwise yours will just give you a blank reading. Plus, while it might be reassuring to know that you are going to meet your true love right after you graduate from University (or whatever), learning that you won’t meet them until you’re in your late forties might not lead to a great deal of happiness while you wait.

Oona (Emma Caulfield) is turning 30 before long, and she’s been saddled with the uncertainty of a blank TiMER since she was old enough to have one implanted (14 years old). Her social life has been a string of efforts to get TiMERs on men she finds without them, but time and again she has only managed to prove her finds are not “the one.”

Meanwhile, Oona’s step-sister Steph (Michelle Borth), has a TiMER that is maliciously counting the days until somewhere in her forties. Her social calendar is filled with one-night stands, because… why bother with anything else? She has adopted something of a hopeful defeatist attitude, in that she doesn’t see the point in not having fun along the way, and at least she knows where she’s going, even if she isn’t happy about it.

Steph’s odd, happy by virtue of unhappiness, resignation leads Oona to a fling with grocery store clerk Mikey (John Patrick Amedori). Because the much younger Mikey has a TiMER set to go off in about four months, Oona lets herself take a break from her search and just have fun spending some time in a relationship.

Along the way, we learn some interesting information about Oona’s mother’s relationship with her first husband (Oona’s father), watch as Oona’s brother finds his soulmate just days after he gets his TiMER (at age 14), and discover the infinite ways in which society has changed as a result of this little gizmo.

This charming and quirky winner brings together the best elements of both indie film and the sci-fi genre. In the one case, because it dares to have a brilliant ending, has scenes that are in some sense unsatisfying for their genuineness, and allows its statements to go unspoken – all things that rarely get past big money and mass appeal. In the other, it speaks amazingly about the real world, and people, by using impossible situations and simply letting them play out.

The tight and clever script from writer/director Jac Schaeffer pulls its power from its subtleties, leaving much of its ability to deliver its story in your reaction to the character’s reactions. It’s a smart move, and one that demands a certain amount of confidence, because the film’s subject doesn’t lend itself to a more direct line.

To a great extent, our lives simply are what we believe they are. Think of all those people who live with the fear that they will be alone forever. Well, what if they could just look at their arm, and say, “No, just for 420 more days.” Longer than you wanted, maybe, but not forever. He or she is on the way. What if you were already married, but didn’t think things were working out… well, let’s go find out. It’s a slyly brilliant statement on both our need for answers, and our demand that someone (or something) else figure things out for us.

For some, like Oona’s mother, the existence of TiMERs becomes almost a part of their religion. Others, like Mikey, don’t believe we should use them, even if they seem to work. And then there are people like Oona, possibly, who wonder about everything. Do they work, or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? I suppose it “works” either way actually, but what does that mean for what you’re supposed to believe about life and love?

A humble and straight-forward film, surprisingly devoid of the pomp and circumstance (read “sappy, stupid drama”) you can hardly avoid expecting from such a narrowly focused investigation of love, TiMER speaks volumes by saying almost nothing, and is entertaining and bright all the way through.

You may wonder where you are in this film’s universe. Would you get one? Would you believe in them? Is such a thing possible? What you probably won’t consider, at least until well into the movie, is that you’ve already got one, and you believe in it with everything you are… you just call it something else… or many things.

It is a rare film (or story) that is aware enough to describe its events, and at the same time put forward the idea that while TiMER couples may fall “in love,” they are not “in” whatever my wife and I are in, and they have not done what we’ve done… and without making even the remotest mention of such an idea.

 

Are You Screening?

 

Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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