Counting Down to Love: Thoughts on ‘Timer’

Recently, I was trying to decide what to watch on Netflix when I came across the movie Timer. A friend had recommended it, so I clicked. It’s an independent film about a society, much like our own, but in this world you can get a timer which counts down until you meet your soulmate.

It’s a fascinating premise. What would it be like if you knew for sure that you would meet the person you were best suited to? (Or, indeed, that you were perfectly suited to one other person). Would you choose to get one of these timers? Or would you take your chances on finding love the old fashioned way?

The main character, Oona, chooses certainty…kind of. She has a timer, but it’s blank, meaning that her soulmate doesn’t have one (yet). Her step-sister is in another kind of pickle. Her timer shows that she won’t meet her “one” until she is 43. Oona can’t be certain, and her sister is certain that she has many more years to wait.

The movie begins as Oona takes a new boyfriend to get a timer, hoping that theirs will link up. “You like me, and I think you’re pretty neat too,” she says. “But what’s the point of continuing without a guarantee?”

Like so many of us, myself often included, Oona is looking for the magic bullet to romantic happiness. She wants to protect her heart from being broken. I’d like that myself.

But my heart has been broken as I’ve dated. Those experiences have been hard, but they’ve been mingled with so much good. I’ve learned so much about healthy (and unhealthy) relationships, about myself, about what I do and don’t want in a partner, through dating people that I didn’t end up with. But in the world of this movie, none of that would have happened. Instead, I would have had an eye on my wrist, counting down, not even seeing people who would become very important to me, people who taught me so much. We would have passed each other by without another thought. Sure, I wouldn’t have had the hurt associated with those relationships, but I wouldn’t have the experience either. It is that experience, I hope, which will eventually help me to be a better partner.

“Aren’t I guaranteed to like my one? Isn’t that the point?” Oona’s hopeful man asks as he prepares to get his timer.

“Not at first,” says the woman, before she installs it. She explains that there are lots of different scenarios: sometimes people are friends first, or they don’t like each other much. Love at first sight is only one of the options. Once he has his timer, he and Oona look at each other, each wondering if their timers will begin chiming in unison. Instead, his starts counting down, giving him a couple of extra years before he meets his love. Now Oona is certain that he isn’t the person for her, but I have to wonder—what did she miss?

At one point in the movie, Oona is frustrated with the system, with her blank timer. She starts seeing Mikey, someone she knows isn’t right for her. “You’re sweating your future, right?” he asks her. “It’s a shame, ‘cause you could have a much more exciting present if you really wanted.”

I don’t have a timer counting down on my wrist until I meet “the one,” but I do have a few things in common with Oona. Often, I have a hard time relaxing at the start of relationships, letting them develop naturally. I want to know for sure if this is something I can build, something I can count on. I want a guarantee. Between relationships, I want some sort of reassurance that even though I’m single at the moment, I haven’t been forgotten, that my person is on the way, as fast as he can travel. But there are no guarantees in love, as anyone who has tasted much of it knows. There is no perfect person who will be unwavering in their love and commitment to you. There is no way to know for sure if you will meet someone you want to spend your life with. Certainty is only available in hindsight.

“One path, and you can’t take detours,” says Mikey. “Life is about the detours.” Getting a timer didn’t help Oona stop fixating on this part of her life, a part that would happen anyway, eventually, or not. In fact, the timer was a visible reminder of the things she couldn’t control. Love doesn’t show up on schedule, which, when I think about it, is one of the best things about it. Love is stronger than my best plans or hopes. Love is the surprise party that takes me completely off guard. But I agree with Mikey: life is about the detours. Love takes a lot of forms, not all of them romantic, and not all of them forever. This movie was a reminder for me to think deeply about what is actually going on in my life, to relax into that, to enjoy every second. I don’t want to spend my life checking over my shoulder, waiting for love to overtake me. I don’t want to miss out on the beauty of what is right in front of me.


Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook or at

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