Have you noticed that every day has a name these days? Poetry day, Star Wars day, rare illnesses day… I learn about them thanks to twitter, as one does, and that was how my feed got filled with images from the film Groundhog day last February 2nd.
In Spain we didn’t know anything about the furry weather forecaster, so the film was translated with a different title (Atrapado en el tiempo, Trapped in time), and the concept of that day was alien to me. Since the film appeared to be already ingrained in popular culture and I felt disconnected for not knowing about it, I decided to put it on my to-watch list, whose time came during the first weekend of the lockdown (the lockdown started on March 15 in my country).
The surprise came when of what I thought was going to be just a comedy I found such a profound story that I am sure would have had a shallow effect on me had it not been for the difficult times we are living worldwide. So, please, let me talk about the film in detail, and beware if you haven’t watched it, because there will be plenty of spoilers (the film is from 1993, so we all agree that I am not breaking any law, don’t we?).
The protagonist is Phil Connors, a self-centered, cranky, and selfish weather forecaster who travels to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the celebrations and the weather prediction on Groundhog Day. The weather doesn’t let the team go back home, so they stay in town and, the next morning, to Phil’s surprise, it is Groundhog day again, he being trapped in a time loop the rest of the people are not aware of.
At this point, one can’t but notice the similarities with the confinement because all days feel the same. Perhaps not at first, when you try to adapt to the new routine, but after a few days you begin to feel trapped (you are not allowed to leave the house anyway, so it is not just a feeling). And then, if you allow yourself to consider the situation further on, you realize that everyday life might also be a time loop. There are changes, there are special days, but the majority of our days are the same day repeated over and over because it is hard to take responsibility and use our own time wisely.
In the film, Connors is at first enraged with the situation. He dislikes the small town of Punxsutawney and the locals, and he shows it constantly, causing not surprise to Rita, the producer, and the cameraman, who are already used to Phil’s bad temper. Sounds familiar? We all know people whose aim in life is to let others know they are not happy; just don’t be one of them. In these bizarre circumstances of confinement, the only thing I can complain about is being confined at home, which is what everybody else is, at least, experiencing if they are lucky: there are people in hospitals where you can’t have visitors to stop the spreading of the virus; there are people who have lost relatives and they can’t even organize a funeral because gatherings are not allowed; and there are old men and women alone in their houses, terrified to get the virus. The majority of us are in the lucky lot, so just don’t be a jerk and don’t complain.
Going back to the film, and after some groundhog days under his belt, Connors makes sure that his acts have no consequences and takes advantage of the situation by committing minor crimes, having sex with all the women he is able to, and eating candy like there is no tomorrow. Sadly, I have seen such behaviors these days. As an example, the animal shelters are reporting a raise in adoptions because people are allowed to go out to walk the dog so, suddenly, everybody wants one. I suppose they think they are clever, but NO.
However, Connors changes towards the end of the film: he decides to use his time wisely both for him and for others. He gets to know all those locals that he once despised and helps them: a boy that falls from a tree, a man who chokes in a restaurant, genuine tenderness and care to an old beggar on his last day on earth. He goes (groundhog) day after (groundhog) day to piano lessons and learns how to make stunning ice sculptures, contributing to the beauty in this world. And he is kind with his coworkers and makes the most remarkable covering of the festivities, while his love for Rita grows until, on one last groundhog day, she realizes what a loving and generous man he is, and she loves him back.
This confinement is as close as we are going to get to a time loop like the film’s. Dance in the sitting room, create art, do yoga in the afternoons, enroll in a MOOC, give as many kisses as you can. Let’s use that time wisely.