‘Palm Springs’ is one of many films about people stuck in a time loop, like ‘Groundhog Day’ or ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ among others, in which the protagonist must learn to find the way out.
‘Today, tomorrow, yesterday, it’s all the same’ – says Nyles, who somehow got stuck in a time loop on a wedding day he was attending with his girlfriend. We do not know how long he has been there, nor does he, but surely long enough to just give up on trying to understand it. Unlike Phil in ‘Groundhog Day’ he didn’t wake up the next day after sleeping with Sarah, a girl he likes. Maybe, because unlike Phil, he didn’t really fall in love with her or change for her. Nothing changes until she gets stuck in this time loop as well.
‘The only way to really live in this is to embrace the fact that nothing matters’ – Nyles explains to Sarah. She asks what’s the point of living then, and Nyles replies: ‘Well, we kind of have no choice but to live, so I think your best bet is just to learn how to suffer existence.’ So they are just killing time. They start playing and having fun like little kids. They do not worry about work or money, they are just playful and childish. Maybe that’s what life is all about? Just using our imagination like we used to do when we were little. Remember imagining things? They felt real, didn’t they? So when did we stop doing that? Maybe we are just supposed to enjoy life?
Nyles initially becomes Sarah’s guide but she soon takes over the initiative. She tells him he needs to face this reality and she is desperate to get out of this situation. Unlike him she understands that she needs to face her past: ‘Ignoring all that would make me destined to repeat it’. But Nyles thinks that life is just about playing and avoiding pain. So she leaves him and does all the work to figure out how to get them out. Only then, left alone again, he realizes that he loves her. But he is scared to leave the time loop because it became so familiar.
Nyles never made the effort that Sarah did to learn about quantum physics, to understand how he ended up in this situation or how to get out of it. Instead he tried to live every day in the easiest way possible. When she joined him, he never wanted to acknowledge how much he liked her because he thought that would complicate their relationship. He pretended that nothing that happened before mattered. But Sarah knew that she had to face her past first before she could move forward.
In the end Nyles admits that Sarah was right and declares: ‘I think that life should be shared now’. So he follows her and confesses: ‘I’d rather die with you than live in this world without you’. Now, when they really deeply love each other, with their whole packages – they are finally free.