Monday, July 9, 2012

Out of TiME(R)

Since Netflix jacked their DVD prices up by more than 100% last year, it has become apparent to me that to get back at its members who indignantly stuck with the bare minimum "Instant Watch" plan, the only movies available for streaming are, quite frankly, shit.

Now, this is, of course, a hyperbolic exaggeration. For instance, Drive is currently waiting to be placed in your Instant queue, and cult favorites like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are consistently listed as Netflix Instant Watch favorites. But sifting through the various genres of the Watch Instantly tab brings up titles like Ten Inch Hero, about four friends who run a sandwich shop in California. Probably not shit, exactly, but like shit in that I wouldn't want to put it on my television. 

Sunday night's "family movie night" (quality bonding time with me, Scarlet, and Patrick. We had popcorn.) proved to be a slight exception to this rule, as I have been thinking about the movie, TiMER, since we finished it--which is something I assure you rarely happens with shit. Though the acting was less than stellar, Jae Schaeffer's 2009 comantasy (I made that up. That's comedy romance fantasy, a new up-and-coming genre in film. Be on the lookout.) at least attempts to consider love, fate, and the problematics of certainty in ways I haven't seen elsewhere. 

TiMER's premise is simple enough: in our world, certain biotechnology has been discovered that can tell when a person will meet his or her soulmate. When a TiMER is implanted into a person's wrist, a countdown begins to the day the wearer will find their true love. When one locks eyes with their soulmate, the TiMER goes off, beeping and flashing. In the world of TiMER, it's treated almost as public proposals are; if two lovers meet for the first time in public, they're greeted with applause, congratulations, and a general celebration--which is odd mostly because the two people have only just met. The catch is that a person's TiMER only counts down if their soulmate also has a TiMER implanted. If you have a TiMER but your future soulmate does not, your TiMER remains blank until the other gets one implanted--if the other person gets one implanted, that is.

What becomes clear throughout the film is that in the years since the TiMER was invented, the concept of love--and indeed, many other complicated, abstract, mushy concepts as well--has been altered completely. TiMERS cannot be implanted until after puberty begins, and in major cities everyone between the ages of 14 and just plain old have them (jokes are made about TiMERless individuals coming from small towns in Oklahoma and Minnesota, and characters sometimes refer to parents and grandparents meeting "the old-fashioned way."). 

The central character, Oona, is plagued by her blank TiMER, and spends the entirety of the movie immersed in that annoyingly awkward and desperate almost-30-but-hasn't-yet-found-true-love angst, but I found the people with active, counting down TiMERs to be far more interesting. Oona's sister, for example, will meet her soulmate at age 43, but finds man after man with active & counting down TiMERs to sleep with to wile away her younger  years. Oona's brother, on the other hand, is just entering the 9th grade, and gets his TiMER implanted only to find he is fated to meet his soulmate in 3 days, at age 14. The corporate pamphlet from the company that created the TiMER explains that there are many different types of love--and once a person meets their soulmate, they aren't guaranteed to like them right away. 

But it's troublesome, because each person--from Oona's little pubescent brother to a newly implanted middle-aged man who discovers his soulmate is his wife's sister (okay that one was made up)--knows with absolute certainty that they are meant to be. That they must be. It's fate--fact, actually. And what this certainty does is cheapen and nullify every opportunity for love, for companionship, for romance leading up to The One. People in the TiMER universe cannot date, cannot kiss or flirt, without the sinking feeling of knowing with absolute certainty that these first loves will never work out--are not, if fact, loves at all.

Late in the film, we meet Oona's estranged father and his girlfriend, who had her TiMER removed, telling Oona and her sister that their father isn't her One, but she doesn't care. She loves him. In our universe, this might be considered admirable, a gesture to show devotion. But in the universe created by Shaeffer's TiMER, the gesture feels quixotic--a nostalgic grasping for a simpler time when uncertainty was part & parcel of finding true love, a time when a person could at least pretend to have control over their own fate.


Chelsea said...

Ohhh, and since I'm in America - I can watch this!

Ashley said...

Yay for American IP addresses. Like I said, not the best movie. But I could write about it, at least.