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Case Number 19102: Small Claims Court

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Phase 4 Films // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 16th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan's Timer is blank, but then he's the only one who has one.

The Charge

When will you find the one?

The Case

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's success showed that audiences were capable of enjoying a complex, emotionally dark take on the romance movie. Rather than cookie-cutter relationships between stereotypical characters, people were willing to sit through a film that wasn't afraid to be a little confusing and a little ambiguous. Because of this, I don't understand why Timer hasn't played in every art house theater in the country raking in millions of dollars. Although not as narratively or visually inventive as Eternal Sunshine, Timer shares the sci-fi oriented look at relationships and the willingness to examine the darker and less certain aspects of falling in love.

In the very near future, a company develops a technology called the Timer. The device is surgically implanted on the wrist of the user, and will start counting down to the day you will meet the one true love of your life. The only problem is that if your future partner doesn't have a Timer also, your wrist will be blank until he or she gets one. That's the problem with Oona (Emma Caufield, Buffy the Vampire Slayer): she's almost thirty and her timer is still blank. Oona has been trying to find her soulmate for years, taking available men to get their Timers installed to see if they're the one, but to no avail. Finally she decides to give it a rest and begins a relationship with a younger man, Mikey. Things are complicated by his Timer, which is counting down a very near date, but Oona must find out just how much of our lives are predetermined.

The idea of the Timer is a frankly brilliant one. Not only does it raise interesting questions about fate, love, and technology, but it breathes new life into the tired romantic/romantic comedy genre. Timer is still girl meets boy, girl loses boy, etc, but the whole idea of the Timer adds a new level of tension. The audience knows how a normal romantic comedy would end, but with the Timer in play everything is up for grabs. According to the device Oona isn't destined to be with Mikey despite the fun they're having, but the audience is left to wonder if their love is stronger than fate. I won't spoil it, but suffice it to say that the Timer adds a layer of richness to the falling-in-love genre that is rare, and although the film didn't end as I had hoped it was tremendously satisfying nonetheless.

In addition to an amazing story idea, Timer is perfectly cast. Long-time Buffy fans know that Emma Caufield can do the wry, slightly out-there characters with ease, and that assessment is reinforced in Timer. Her character is slightly off-kilter from years of knowing her soulmate is out there but unattainable, plus she has an odd family situation. Caufield communicates all this through body language, and her comic timing during some of the film's funnier moments is spot-on. Part of Oona's weird family situation is having a stepsister who also happens to be her best friend. She's played by Michelle Borth, and the character is a long-suffering (as in she knows she's going to meet her soulmate, but it won't be for decades) and sarcastic woman. Borth plays her in the vein of Sarah Silverman and pulls it off, which is no mean feat. John Patrick Amedori plays the romantic interest, and although he's much younger than his co-stars he makes his character a charming young man.

Timer gets a solid treatment on DVD. The film is obviously low-budget, and looks it, but the transfer here is solid and free of any serious technical flaws. Colors are a little blah and blacks not very inky, but there are no compression or other authoring problems to speak of. The surround audio does a fine job with dialogue, but unsurprisingly doesn't give the rear speakers much to do.

For an independent release, Timer gets a sizeable batch of extras. They start out with a commentary from director Jac Schaeffer that includes the film's genesis and production history. There are also two featurettes that go behind the scenes of the production. Deleted scenes and bloopers are also offered as well as the film's trailer.

The only complaint I have about Timer is that it's just a bit too long at 99 minutes. I'm not sure exactly what I would have cut, but the film's second and third act could have moved a bit faster by the tiniest bit.

Timer is an amazing film, especially for a directorial debut, and really deserves a huge audience. It's not the typical romantic or comic movie, but for fans of films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and other more cerebral romances, Timer delivers a smart story with interesting characters that asks important questions about what it means to be in love.

The Verdict

I've found the one, and Timer is not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 92

Perp Profile

Studio: Phase 4 Films
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Drama
• Fantasy
• Independent
• Romance

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Bloopers


• IMDb

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