Apparently conceptualised upon Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is director Max Barbakow and writer Andy Siara’s subversive foray into the romcom genre set in an infinite time loop. This meaty genre subversion brings out its perceptual metaphor of our generational angst and stasis – and in turn manifests what it takes to better ourselves in a seemingly unworthy and emotionless world of existential dread.

Palm Springs starts with a hook-up that goes awry between two wedding guests Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti). Sarah gets dragged into the time loop that Nyles has already been in, and from here, two troubled souls converge in the magical time and space of dramas, adventures and mirages. In its first half, the film romanticises the idea of being trapped in the same day with someone you love – only to later subvert this romanticism by presenting Nyles and Sarah’s personal growths from leaving their enclosed coupledom into the real world.

The film’s juxtaposition of its male and female characterisations anchors its genre subversion. Nyles is the romcom character archetype of a man-child who hides behind his cynical, nihilistic façade. While Samberg’s witty persona and comedic talent render the immature Nyles somewhat relatable, the hotheaded, vulnerable and undefeated Sarah carries the weight of their romance. Elevated by Milioti’s expressively affecting performance, Sarah’s self-redemption arc puts a feminist twist on the film’s sci-fi premise – where she tackles both the quantum-physics dilemma and her own inner demons head on.

Palm Springs is a particularly fitting viewing right now. On the one hand, we are still in a prolonged quarantine that resembles a time loop – where every day feels the same, and hardly anything feels meaningful. On the other, as the world is slowly and steadily exiting from the pandemic, this film also reminds us of finding agency within ourselves and getting a grip on reality and normality.



CAST: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons

DIRECTOR: Max Barbakow

WRITERS: Andy Siara, Max Barbakow

SYNOPSIS: Two wedding guests get trapped together in a time loop. While trying to escape from the loop, they fall in love with each other.