There can be little doubt that Canadian screenwriter Arne Olsen knew, even before he started the script for Repeaters, that it would be seen as a riff on Groundhog Day. Apparently, the 1993 Bill Murray classic was such an impactful movie that it almost spawned a whole new subgenre using essentially the same theme; we’ve seen it in several movies (e.g. Retroactive, 1997, and Triangle, 2009) and TV shows (“Day Break”, 2006) over the years, but Repeaters is the greatest Groundhog copycat I have seen so far. The theme of dealing with one’s problems in order to make the repeating day stop and get on with one’s life is precisely the same here, and there is no more of an explanation for how it is happening than in Groundhog Day. But, of course, the explanation is not in the how, but in the why, and the why is obvious; it is in the story’s message: get your issues sorted out, or you’ll be stuck with them, and be miserable. It’s not a bad message, I suppose, if perhaps a bit pedestrian.
Repeaters is different from Groundhog in that it aims for social realism and is not a comedy. The mains are young recovering drug addicts, each with their own particularly painful personal issue, besides the drug addiction. Kyle wants to make amends with his younger sister, who hates him. Sonia needs to come to terms with an abusive and dying father. And Mike has the cross to bear that his father is in jail and hates and blames Mike. One Wednesday Kyle, Sonia and Mike wake up at the rehab center where they’re staying, and the next day they wake up on the same Wednesday. After being creeped out by what is happening, their first impulse is that they need to try to solve not just their own but also other people’s problems, such as preventing a suicide that takes place Wednesday night. But when this doesn’t work out, the trio spends the next several Wednesdays screwing around and committing petty and not-so-petty crimes, since there is no consequence to it. Every day they just wake up on the same day as before with a blank slate (they, and only they, remember what happened the “previous” day).
Kyle and Sonia eventually get serious about solving their issues, whereas Mike gets further and further out of control, leading to severe conflicts between him and the two others. The ending has a twist which makes good sense while also being open to interpretation.
At first, Repeaters seems like a pretty bad movie. This is not Hollywood, and there isn’t a lot of money up there on the screen. From the beginning the cheap production values are apparent – the sound, for instance, is not great, and there are no subtitles to compensate for this – but pretty soon the story actually becomes fairly engaging. Because the script and the acting are not awful, and this is fortunate, as we really need some distraction from what I felt was some rather inexperienced and cliché-ridden directing. But maybe I am spoiled by big-budget American movies. Repeaters is definitely a “small” movie in several ways, containing various hallmarks of typically bad and low-budget movies, such as the annoying, “sensitive” melancholy piano tracks that underscore several scenes, the occasionally poor lighting (I guess overcast out-door scenes are par for the course in Canada) and locales so bleakly realistic that they contain hardly any visual entertainment value. But the story and the acting hold up, even if the movie lacks originality and visual excitement. The result is somewhat dull but watchable mediocrity – which should not disappoint anyone involved in this movie, as it could easily have turned out much worse. Neither a good nor a bad movie.
Repeaters is out on DVD in the UK on March 25. The screener reviewed here contains no extras of any kind; not even menus. The screen image is quite good.
Director: Carl Bessai
Cast: Dustin Milligan, Amanda Crew, Richard de Klerk, Gabrielle Rose and others
Runtime: 86 min.