By Marc Glassman
Carl Bessai, director
Arne Olsen, script
Starring: Dustin Milligan (Kyle Halstead), Amanda Crew (Sonia Logan), Richard de Klerk (Michael Weeks), Benjamin Ratner (Bob Simpson), Alexia Fast (Charlotte Halstead), Gabrielle Rose (Peg)
Remember Groundhog Day? In that American comedy classic, Bill Murray played a weatherman condemned to endlessly repeat the same festive day, waiting with a TV crew to find out whether the groundhog had seen its shadow, or not. After bouts of rage, drunkenness and despair—all delivered in a wickedly hilarious manner—Murray finds true love with Andie MacDowell, the producer he had initially resented. With that, the spell is finally broken.
Flash-forward a quarter of a century.
20-somethings Kyle, Sonia and Weeks find life in a rehab centre in Mission, B.C. to be simultaneously harsh and banal until one night, when they’re all hit by lightning during a thunderstorm. The next morning, they wake up to find themselves back where they had started the day before.
Welcome to Repeaters, a dark Canadian thriller; yes, it’s our Groundhog Day. Unlike Bill Murray’s relatively unexciting day, the three young rehabbers had dramatic, unsettling ones. Weeks went to visit his father in prison, hoping for reconciliation, only to have the bitter old man spit on the glass that blocked the two from each other. Sonia couldn’t find it in her heart to go in to see her gravely ill abusive father—only to find out later in the day that he’d died. And Kyle tried to apologize to his sister but found himself rejected.
Forced to repeat the past, the trio—perhaps understandably–play out fantasies of anger and revenge, robbing a liquor store and humiliating a drug dealer. But after a while, the two men split as friends and conspirators. Weeks plays out increasingly violent scenes with cops and young women. Kyle starts working towards redemption, hoping for acceptance from his sister. He persuades Sonia to try to forgive her father—but she can’t do so.
As Sonia and Kyle fall in love, Weeks becomes crazier and more hostile. Their intertwining narrative turns into elaborate tales of dominance and aggression. Depending on the day, either Weeks forces the two lovers into acts of violence or Kyle gets the upper hand and ties up his former friend. Of course, eventually that pattern has to play itself out—offering redemption for some but not others…
Repeaters is a cleverly structured film, made with compassion and a surprising depth of feeling by veteran B.C. director Bessai and his writer Arne Olsen. The three were repeaters before they had their magical Groundhog Day: each was addicted to a pattern of abuse, anger and despair. Well shot and acted, the film is like a contemporary music piece (by Morton Feldman, for example) that offers variation upon variation of the same motif.
Repeaters is a thriller with a difference: there’s thought behind the action. Made and acted with verve, this is a little movie that is truly entertaining. It’s a film worth seeing—if not in theatres, then at least on DVD or on TV.