Set in a world it’s possible to have your soulmate pinpointed and presented to you with zero guesswork, 2009’s TiMER takes a quirky-funny, surprisingly un-twee look at what one true love really means.
The mechanism for soulmate detection is a device embedded into the wrist, which counts down to the day you will meet your soulmate, your one true love, your happily ever after. It hits zero the night before, and the next day, when you lock eyes, it beeps. Plain and simple. No doubt, no worries, no risk. It is the perfect arranged marriage, orchestrated by none other than fate.
At least that’s the advertisement. The only problem is, if your soulmate doesn’t have a timer, then your timer remains zeroed out until he or she gets one. And that’s the situation in which the film’s main character, successful, slightly Type-A Oona, finds herself. With her 30th birthday approaching and a series of potential relationships with timerless men meeting their end as soon as she coerces them into taking the timer plunge, she’s getting nervous — and frustrated.
Her stepsister, the slightly bitter and irreverent Steph, finds herself in an equally if not more frustrating position. She won’t meet her soulmate until she is 43. She passes the time with others doing the same via emotionless one-night stands.
After bidding adieu to one more potential guy whose timer beeped to life while Oona’s remained zeroed out, Oona trudges into a grocery store where she finds herself being simultaneously hit on and slightly needled by Mikey, a near-inappropriately-young, boyishly handsome, long-haired check-out clerk — essentially the opposite of the type of man Oona is hoping to meet. He asks her out, and she of course declines — not only for that reason but because his timer indicates he has less than a year until he meets his soulmate.
And in the resulting conversation between Oona and Steph, we find the first of TiMER’s many philosophical conundrums: Is there a point to carrying on any sort of romance while you’re waiting for your soulmate? Is it ethical? Are you cheating on your future soulmate? Or are the relationships you have prior to your soulmate what make you the person that enables you to actually be your soulmate’s soulmate?
Spurred on by Steph to have a little fun and do something without a purpose for once in her life, Oona returns and picks up Mikey, expecting a Steph-style one-night stand. But without the pressure of the timer on the relationship, it surprises her by developing into something sweet, fun, relaxing — so many things that had been missing in Oona’s life.
This, of course, suggests if not outright asks more tough questions: What if you’re already in love when your timer goes off? Is that not real love? How does knowing a stranger is your soulmate affect the dynamic of the relationship? Does the timer really just create a self-fulfilling prophecy? And what is a soulmate anyway? Is it about passion or suitability? How are these things determined and by whom?
It would be easy for the film to get bogged down by such complex thematic material, but it skips along with just the right mix of lightness and poignancy. The three leads, Emma Caulfield as Oona, Michelle Borth as Steph, and John Patrick Amedori as Mikey, turn in tonally perfect performances, bring their characters to life in a way that feels really, well, real.
Between the themes, story and cast, TiMER is the sort of film that plays fun and breezy as you watch it but creeps into your thoughts for a long time afterwards. Two months since I first watched it, I’m still processing all the questions it broached but refused to answer. While I haven’t reached a verdict on whether the timer itself is good or bad, any film that stays with you like TiMER is most certainly good.