Finding true love is easier than ever thanks to a bio-technological implant called the TiMER, which counts down to the exact time people meet their soul-mates. In a world full of happy couples, poor lovelorn Oona O’Leary (Emma Caulfield) faces the rare dilemma of a blank TiMER. She is about to turn thirty but her TiMER hasn’t even started counting down yet. Sick of waiting for her computer-designated Mr. Right, Oona seeks solace in a fling a cute younger guy, Mikey Evers (John Patrick Amedori), a supermarket clerk and drummer with a struggling rock band. Against the odds Oona finds herself falling for immature but sweet-natured Mikey, even though his own TiMER maintains he is only four months away from meeting his true love.
A high concept rom-com with a science fiction twist, TiMER proves a more befitting vehicle for the talents of onetime Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Emma Caulfield than her last lead role in lacklustre “scary tooth fairy” horror movie Darkness Falls (2003). Caulfield was an engaging presence back in her Buffy days and she brings those same warm qualities to her role here as a warm, multifaceted heroine. First-time writer-director Jac Schaeffer spins a simple yet ingenious idea into an affecting allegory for people’s enduring preoccupation with fate and destiny when it comes to matters of the heart. Given so many of us would like to find love without getting hurt it is not too hard to imagine a device like the TiMER would have a profound effect on society. After the opening credits montage masterfully establish how the world has developed in reaction to the device, Schaeffer deftly sidesteps the sort of over-elaborate exposition found in many science fiction films. Instead she develops the concept by focusing on the characters and how their individual hopes and problems stem from the existence of the TiMER.
What Oona wants is not simply love, but what so many people seemingly search for in vain: a cast-iron guarantee of lifelong happiness. Given the film opens with her ending a relationship because the TiMER suggests they had no future, it appears her problems stem from more than simply a possibly malfunctioning device. Crucially for a romantic comedy the relationships here are ones we really want to succeed. While Oona is searching for true love, her step-sister and best friend Steph (Michelle Borth) is happy enough with a string of hot one night stands. She sets to flirting with Dan (Desmond Harrington), grandson of one of the nicer residents at the old folks home where she works, only it blossoms into something more. Meanwhile the girls’ high school age kid brother Jessie (Hayden McFarland) is more than a little intimidated when his newly acquired TiMER reveals he is only a few hours away from meeting the girl with whom he will spend the rest of his life. Even more so when that girl turns out to be sweet-natured Soledad (Bianca Brockle), daughter of the family’s Mexican housekeeper, whose parents are none too thrilled about this turn of events. This culture clash/class barrier sub-plot is especially intriguing and really quite charming in parts yet goes somewhat under-developed.
As a comedy this might not be too big on belly laughs but has a terrific script with some great one-liners. It is also populated entirely with likeable, well drawn characters whose sub-plots are all individually compelling. Not too many comedies of late can boast those credentials. An exceptional cast (Amedori and Borth are every bit as winning as Caufield) all shine in their moments in the spotlight plus the third act throws a terrific sucker punch that certainly caught this reviewer off guard, precipitating the surprisingly ambiguous ending. Even though the tone is undeniably upbeat and life-affirming, the film is no fairytale and refreshingly honest about how messy and bittersweet love can be.