"Groundhog Day" was a horror movie all along

And so, Groundhog Day. Groundhog Days. “At first I was like, ‘This is great—I get to chill out, be in my pajamas, do breakfast whenever, slow and easy,’” Lisa Devlin, a stay-at-home mother, told The Washington Post recently. “And then I realized very quickly that just turns the day into an amorphous mess.” That stark shift in mindset, experts suggest, is a common experience. “Some psychologists,” The New York Times notes, “have compared the coronavirus’s effects to the aftermath of a natural disaster, except the disaster is moving in slow motion, taking place everywhere and has no end in sight.” In mid-April, CBS 4, a local news station in Miami, aired a segment that began, “It’s not February 2, but it sure does feel like Groundhog Day lately.” The reporter, Lauren Pastrana (“reporting from my garage, again”), remotely interviewed the psychologist Raquel Bild-Libbin, who noted how easily unstructured days can give rise to anxiety and depression. The doctor also noted the irony of that twist: “We have gained something that we have always wanted, which is time.”

This is another way that Groundhog Day speaks to this moment. Unstructured time, initially, might seem like a gift. “Let me ask you guys a question,” Phil says to two Punxsutawney residents he meets in a bowling-alley bar: “What if there were no tomorrow?” They consider the question. “No tomorrow,” one answers. “That would mean there would be no consequences. There’d be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted!”

But one of the lessons of Groundhog Day is that accountability is its own kind of asset. Without it, Phil is rudderless, and doomed to repeat his unending day.