Friday, September 7, 2012

TiMER (2009)

by DionysusPsyche

There are two types of romantics in this world. Those who want to know everything about the one they're going to marry, and those who want to be surprised. While everyone is some conglomeration of the two, there is more distinct separation between them in this sci-fi love story which presents an interesting twist on the modern world.

The Plot is Ticking...
Oona O'Leary (Emma Caulfield, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is part of a family tradition. She, like her sister, brother, and parents have a countdown timer. It is a voluntary technology that can be implanted in your wrist when you turn 14 and counts down to the moment you meet The One. At that moment, the timer will go off, and you will meet your soul mate. It is how the main character's mother and stepfather met, and they zealously carry on the plan.

Oona is about to turn thirty. The timer is set for countdown when both parties have the chip implanted in them and the timer goes off when they meet (it reaches zero the day of, then beeps when they are in close proximity). However, the person meant for Oona hasn't installed the timer yet. So while Oona's step-sister, Steph (Michelle Borth, Hawaii Five-O), knows that she has years until her potential mate, Oona tries to make anyone who becomes her boyfriend get a tracker. She doesn't want to waste any time with the wrong person.

There are instances throughout the film that cause both Oona and Steph to question the Timer and wonder whether they're better off without it. Both women realize that perhaps life was simpler before there was a Timer. Falling in love happens when it's meant to, and the technology to use it creates pressure, frustration, and concern. Neither woman has even fallen in love or felt they have fallen in love on account of the obsession with the Timer and its implications. Why should they dilly dally dating and wrapping themselves up in pointless emotion if they know that person isn't going to ultimately end up with them? The women take opposites approach on the matter, but end up with the same conclusion. Yet, what provokes the change is the insertion of the chip in their fourteen year old brother who finds out on his birthday when precisely he'll meet his future wife.

Themes and Thoughts Raised by the Film
Clocks and timers are used frequently throughout the film, as people are waiting for something, anticipating the future. One of the messages conveyed is that no matter how eager humans are to meet and fall in love, it happens on its own time. Oona even has a dream where she watches a pot and waits for an egg to boil. The film tries to balance between the idea that love is a natural occurrence but is also based on personality, background, education, and mutual interests. The idea that life is a set destination instead of a journey is reassuring and frustrating (depending on the "when") for those waiting on their clocks, but is nerve wracking to those who have already met someone and feel pressure to connect. Furthermore, the mere invention sets obsessed Timers against those without Timers, creating alienation from those without to cave and hand dollar over fist to learn whether they are--or aren't--the One.

One of the questions I had that wasn't addressed was whether or not any of the couples who received the Timer who met their significant others were truly happy. We have two examples for the countdown--Oona and Steph's parents who are happily married--Oona's mom is religious in her belief of the Timer and has an almost matchmaking will about her that I've seldom seen from any movie other than Fiddler on the Roof. The second is a testimonial from a couple in a video who act emotionally awkward around each other despite their words, which makes one wonder if the science behind it is as accurate as it claims to be.

At first, the movie comes off as a stereotype that mainly women are the ones with the timers, the ones who are waiting, and men are more resistant to get them. The men in the movie with timers seem less concerned than the women, but as the movie progresses, the women become more positive that they themselves make the best and worst of their relationships, and they should not hold anything or anyone responsible for knowing better than they do. There is a certain paint-by-numbers, monotony to the Timer's ability, something that sucks all the fun out of the unknown of when. The parents in the film are beyond ecstatic to set up Oona in a predicted, boring fashion. Getting a Timer on a man for Oona's mother is equal to urging her daughter to get married and have children. It is a social commentary on present day and although the world has come quite a way, we're still obsessed with the psychic and the crystal ball.

Another thought raised by the film was whether or not humans are too reliant on technology, marketing, and social pressure to tell them what they do and don't want. In an age where phones are everywhere and tablets  used in class room and work settings are commonplace begs the question, is the wired universe too attached to machinery? Can we not make the decisions necessary to keep our minds on friends, family, and love instead of on devices that evoke worry, disappointment, and anxiety (I'm thinking of Facebook surveys about users being depressed by the lives on their online friends).

I really enjoyed this film. It was different, quirky, and raised questions that typical romances and sci-fi flicks wouldn't normally raise. I love Emma Caulfield, and it's nice to see her in something besides Buffy reruns. Her sister is probably my favorite character in the film, and there is an older gentleman side character that deserves his own film. Definitely worth the time.

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