I love a romantic comedy. Throw in some magic realism–even better. Jac Schaeffer's Timer ticks both of those boxes, but, unfortunately for a film that explores people’s fears about missed opportunities, this film missed a few opportunities itself, and lost me as a fan in the process. (It bills itself as sci-fi but I say magic realism–there is new technology, but it’s never fully explained. I call that magic. More on this later, though.)
The concept is great: a company has created a wrist implant that counts down to the moment you will meet your soul mate–but only if that person has also bought an implant from the company. Obviously, this service is incredibly popular, leading to new phenomena in the dating world: some desperate types insisting every new person they date gets a timer implanted to make sure they’re "the one," others only dating those with timers in the first place, last-hurrah flings as the timer counts down its final days, and even technophobic hold-outs who don’t trust this newfangled stuff (with parallels to social networking). The consequences of having the timers could have been explored further though. Things were briefly touched upon-class issues, young love, bigger questions about fate and chance. The ideas all had loads of potential, but as I watched, I kept feeling like Schaeffer tried to go too far down each road, without taking the opportunity to wrap up every angle.
Because of all of the above, including my desire for more closure, I really wanted to like this film, and came very close to liking it. A few other things rankled, though. This may seem petty, but it struck a nerve with me: One of the opening shots of the film was of the logo of the company that created the timers–the silhouettes of a man and a woman, yet we briefly see later in the film that the company caters to couples of all sexualities. I don’t generally care what sexualities the main characters of a romantic comedy are, but it wouldn’t have taken much more effort to come up with a logo that was slightly less heteronormative. I mean, surely it would have been better advertising for the company itself within the confines of the film. Which brings me back to the world of the film. It was quite shallow–poke at it too hard and it was clear that there were a lot of unanswered questions: How did the technology work? How did the implants work? Why hadn’t anyone tried to hack the system? What if people’s bodies rejected the devices? Were they only available to wealthy westerners? Again, what made for a less than satisfying film could yet pave the way for a great series.
When it comes to the Bechdel Test, this film almost succeeds, but focuses just too hard on the guy-chasing and glosses over the other aspects of the relationship between the two main characters. Timer’s website purports to put across the message that you can escape your fate, but the message I got was these women needed to define themselves through their romantic relationships.
Great concept, but ultimately I was dissatisfied.