6:45 (2021)

6:45 begins (and indeed ends) with close, loving sex. Bobby Peterson (Michael Reed) and his girlfriend Jules Rable (Augie Duke) adopt a variety of positions in bed together, directly engaging with each other through the contact of their bodies and adoring eyes, to their clear mutual satisfaction. Low lit and idealised, this union seems to represent the couple’s perfect connection – although when we next see them, on a ferry crossing the water, as Jules sleeps with her head in his lap, Bobby’s eye strays to another woman (Sabina Friedman-Seitz) stood on the deck, and we begin to see signs of unravelling already inscribed in this romantic idyll. 

Bobby and Jules are travelling to an island where Bobby had once holidayed as a child. This quaint resort, now offseason and mostly abandoned by tourists, is called Bog Grove – a bog being, significantly, a place where one can easily become stuck. They are very much in love, but it is also clear that there have been rough waters in their relationship. Jules refers several times to the fact that they have recently been fighting. There are hints that Bobby has a drinking problem, and gets into barroom brawls – and that he has had an affair (although he denies it). Yet Bobby wants to prove to Jules that he is worthy of her, a ‘reformed’ character, even husband material, and so they settle into the Cosy Nook hotel – with its congenial but weirdly intrusive and oversolicitous concierge Gene Pratt (Armen Garo) – for a ‘magical weekend’, and enjoy more sex (of the ‘makeup’ variety) in their room before going to sleep. The following morning they are woken by the bedside alarm (which neither of them set) at exactly 6:45, and share a glorious day sightseeing together. Even when they go to the local bar for food, Bobby does not drink, and despite being provoked, avoids getting into a fight (“without a punch thrown,” as Jules observes, “My hero!”). Bobby is trying hard to be his best self for Jules.

The day culminates with Bobby proposing marriage, and Jules accepting, in the beautiful late afternoon light. “I wish this day could last forever,” says Jules as they kiss – only for a shadowy figure in a hoody (Joshua Matthew Smith) to appear, slicing Jules’ throat open with box cutters before breaking the stunned Bobby’s neck with his bare hands. And then the alarm goes off at 6.45am, and the whole day starts again, with only Bobby aware that he has been here before, and desperate to stop violent death encroaching on his perfect day. Yet no matter how many times he tries to change his conduct and the course of events, things seem always to end in the same fatal way.

6:45 is certainly not the first genre film to borrow its circular structure from Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day (1993) – something which has already been done, for example, in Dario Piana’s The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007), Chris Smith’s Triangle (2009), Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Resolution (2012) and The Endless(2017), Vincenzo Natali’s Haunter (2013), Park Hong-min’s Alone (Hon-ja, 2015), Madellaine Paxson’s Blood Punch (2014), Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day (2017), its sequel Happy Death Day 2U (2019), Natasha Kermani’s Lucky (2020) and J.R. Sawyers’ Before I’m Dead (2021). Yet much as Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom (2008) opened with the fakeout with which almost all other con artist films end, thus openly signalling that it was taking the subgenre into new, unexpected quarters, 6:45 too begins with the perfect day that would normally in the end break the looping spell, yet here kickstarts it, guaranteeing that viewers will be left scrambling to work out exactly which issue Bobby needs to resolve in his relationship with Jules to liberate them – or is it just her? or himself? – from this recurring nightmare.

To avoid any risk that the characters and elements making up the day in this isolated, underpopulated locale should pall in their overfamiliarity with each infernal iteration, director Craig Singer’s increased use of split screens, montages, flashbacks, enigmatic cutaways and woozy loops within loops ensures that we, along with Bobby, become ever more disoriented and lost. Meanwhile the wonderfully overdetermined script of Robert Dean Klein (who has previously collaborated with Singer on Dead Dogs Lie, 2001, A Good Night To Die, 2003 and Dark Ride, 2006) brims with hints and clues, not to mention red herrings and garden paths, as to what is underlying Bobby’s insular limbo. “I’m trying to save you,” he will keep insisting to Jules, in a film where repetition rules and all narrative paths seem to lead to the same final destination. Yet ultimately it may be too late for salvation (“What’s passed is the past,” as Gene says of the island’s history, “Nobody can change that”), if not for truth.

While Bobby’s overextended stay on the island may not prove after all “the perfect winter getaway”, nonetheless it is an escape (even a fugue), as everything takes on an ideal form until the messy business of mortality and murder kicks in once more, like a guilty secret that will not go away. For this round, Möbian trip contains and conceals other cycles – of abuse, of betrayal, of violence, of trauma – that keep imposing themselves on the holidaying couple. They say that even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day – and in all its twists and turns, 6:45 keeps pointing towards the fixed, immutable reality from which all these oneiric excursions have been taking their vacation. Hopeless romantic that he is, however, Bobby denies to the end the full horror of his situation, and where there is death, sees only sex and the close intimacy of love. Here, all the wish-fulfilment fantasy of romance is exposed through a glass darkly. Even after the truth has come to light, the film’s delicate layers of delusion and self-delusion will reecho in the viewer’s mind, demanding that 6:45 be read and reread like a painfully honest letter whose content the recipient might prefer not to believe.

strap: In Craig Singer’s romantic psychodrama, a couple’s perfect (groundhog) day turns to murderous nightmare, as their weekend getaway is also an escape and a fugue

© Anton Bitel