TiMER is not only predicated on a ridiculous premise, but one with a surprisingly muddled message. In Jac Schaeffer’s sci-fi romantic comedy, dating has been made irrelevant by the titular stopwatch-ish wrist implants, which tick-tock down until the moment you meet your soulmate. Enter Oona (Emma Caulfield), a 30-year-old orthodontist frustrated that her TiMER hasn’t started operating, an indication that her perfect match’s device isn’t yet activate. In this alterna-world, true love is preordained by the cosmos, causing those like Oona’s stepsister Steph (Michelle Borth), whose counter will be running for the next decade, to bide their times having one-night stands with anyone in sight, and for mismatched families to be suddenly thrust together, as occurs when Oona’s younger brother winds up being Mr. Right for the daughter of the family’s Spanish-speaking maid.
Schaeffer’s scenario is outlandish but nonetheless engagingly handled in the early going, during which time Oona falls for young musician Mikey (John Patrick Amedori), thanks to performances that earnestly and empathetically locate their characters’ emotional turmoil. Nonetheless, none are capable of elevating material locked into a languid fate-versus-free will path. Is life worth living—and is love something you can feel, or even recognize—if your romantic future is already set in stone? Isn’t mystery a vital part of conscious existence? Such questions loom large over Oona’s struggle over whether to enjoy her present with Mikey, patiently pine for her TiMER to power on, or have the distracting apparatus removed altogether.
This dilemma seems headed toward such a predictable resolution that TiMER‘s plot machinations quickly come to resemble its characters’ passive lives, proving mere placeholder filler before the real moment of truth. When that incident arrives, however, it not only upends expectations, but thrusts the story toward a finale wracked by confusion. Boxed in by its own setup, the film is unable to properly resolve its themes, a failure compounded by preceding action that—shot unattractively, scored to tasteless female singer-songwriter tripe, and paced lethargically—nails the unpleasantness of waiting for a dramatic climax.