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A Magazine for Sheffield

Palm Springs

A fresh take on a tried and true genre convention, Palm Springs shows that necessity is the mother of re-invention.

Palm Springs 2020 Movie Reviews

‘What would you do if you were stuck reliving the same day forever?’ is a question that, thanks to Groundhog Day, 12:01pm and Source Code, we have probably all asked ourselves. The ‘time loop’ movie has ironically become an endlessly and repeatedly fascinating genre convention that continues to capture the imaginations of some filmmakers to this day.

It’s a simple and captivating fantasy that Max Barbakow’s Palm Springs depicts to all its wildest and most romantic degrees, adding to that question: ‘...and what if you had some company?’

The chemistry between less-than-enthusiastic wedding guests Nyles and Sarah, more than the wish-fulfilment comedy and sci-fi absurdism, is the skeleton key to Palm Springs’ effectiveness. Aimless in life and indifferent in eternity, Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti bring as much sincerity and tenderness as is possible to characters stuck in such unlikely circumstances. There is a palpable warmth underlying the inherent comedy of this film which is perhaps its greatest achievement.

The world of Palm Springs is lush and sun-bleached, adorned with flaky paint and sizzling asphalt. The assumedly-Californian desert is for Nyles and Sarah the world’s greatest playground, and cinematographer Quyen Tran does her best to depict it as such.

Barbakow’s direction is similarly concerned with matching the energy of our protagonists, completely unafraid of utilising montage and dreamy God’s-eye views to double down on the sense of otherworldly giddiness.

The passage of time in Palm Springs feels exhausting yet completely inconsequential and, in terms of the imposed narrative restriction on sets and costumes, almost like a grand-scale bottle movie in its claustrophobia.

Nyles is a man unconcerned with tomorrow and Sarah is a woman troubled by her yesterdays.

Every initial existential dread of Sarah’s is not forgotten amid the sharp, creative comedy, but instead is postponed. There is a creeping anxiety to be felt in Palm Springs, and the assuredness that Nyles and Sarah will fall out of love with their reality poisons lighter moments like spilled ink - the slowly-dawning realisation that ‘forever’ is meaningless if it’s only for a day.

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