directed by Jac Schaeffer
(Lionsgate, 2009)

Emma Caulfield's quirky turn as Anya in the still-missed TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer was all it took for me to decide to watch her in Timer.

It's a very different sort of movie, but one that still relies heavily on Caulfield's quirks. The modern world of Timer is very much like our own, except that technology has advanced to the point that little digital readouts -- which can be implanted in your wrist at great cost and discomfort -- tell you the exact moment you will meet your soul mate.

Oona (Caulfield) lives in anticipation of the countdown that will signal that her mate is out there, but her counter just keeps flashing zeros. Perhaps worse is the fate of her stepsister Steph (Michelle Borth), whose counter is ticking down -- but the big meeting day is some 15 years in the future.

The sisters deal with their disappointments in very different ways. Steph decides to live in the moment, figuring that Mr. Right is so far off that she should enjoy as many Mr. Right Nows as she can. Oona, on the other hand, is devoted to the nebulous concept of true love, and she will ditch any man, no matter how promising, if their counters don't sync.

And then she meets Mikey (John Patrick Amedori), who is not her perfect match by any stretch. He's way too young. He lacks ambition. She's an orthodontist, he's a grocery store clerk. He's comparatively uneducated.

And yet, she likes him. Maybe because he's entirely not right for her, Oona for the first time in her life flings herself into a physical relationship, soul mate be damned.

Heck, maybe she even loves him after all. His refusal to be tagged with a counter makes it hard to know.

And then her timer starts ticking.

The premise of Timer is an interesting one, and the plot hinges on an acceptance that, yes, the timer technology really works. With that as a given, the question remains -- is it worth it, or even possible, to deny your fate?

The movie works in part because of Caulfield's wide-eyed wistfulness and Borth's sardonic, yet good-natured wit. Amedori does what he needs to do here to give us a scruffily endearing and believable Mikey, although I kept wishing he'd take a shower or something.

The question raised here, of course, is how would people react in a world where clocks -- which, let's face it, already run our lives -- controlled our romantic outcomes, too. Equally fun is the discussion with your own soul mate once the credits roll, as you ponder Oona's final actions and wonder if that's how you'd have reacted, too.

review by
Tom Knapp

13 July 2013

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