Hungarian writer-director Isti Maderasz takes a stab at the do-over time travel genre – with nods to all manner of Groundhog Day and Twilight Zonery business, though it’s worth remembering that Eastern European s-f was turning out the time-twisting likes of Tomorrow I’ll Be Scalding Myself With Tea and Gentlemen I Have Killed Einstein when Western film and TV was wrestling with basics like whether to let Joan Collins get run over to prevent a Nazi victory. Here, the mcguffin is a video cassette … and the new wrinkle (all these stories need at least one) is that taking another run at the problem doesn’t overwrite the last few goes, as if Bill Murray in Groundhog Day had to compete with an increasing number of other Bill Murrays to achieve a happy ending.
Young Adam (Denes Szaraz), a scruffy disappointment to his doctor father (Geza Hegedus D), is planning to double-cross Deszo (Zsolt Anger), the crooked security boss at the hospital, and flee to Finland with a stash of ampoules of a valuable drug … only his just-pregnant girlfriend Anna (Dorina Martinovics) doesn’t want a) to have an abortion and b) to quit the country. Adam decides to do the wrong things, and starts video-taping an explanation for Anna – which is interrupted by news that he’s been killed, and then syncs with the action as playback matches recording … and Adam has to run around a hamster-wheel of time trying to keep Anna and himself alive, while preferring that Deszo doesn’t make it. These stories are almost always satisfying as puzzles, with a nice side order of self-improvement, as in Groundhog Day (and Happy Death Day, come to that). Here, through losing Anna (and the baby) multiple times and getting a sense of all the things he’s throwing away (including, in a nicely understated angle, the possible respect of his kindly father), the deeply selfish Adam learns to be a better person – or, at least, one of the many timeshifted versions of Adam does, since his nemesis turns out not to be the obviously thuggish gangster but the cast-off, unreformed stubs of himself who are hurrying down other intersecting timelines.
It moves at so rapid a clip that the ins and outs of the plot tangle will probably require a second viewing to parse, and it has a hump to get past in that the original Adam is such a complete toerag – without being the entertaining grump Bill Murray manages in Groundhog Day or the engaging minx Jessica Rothe is in Happy Death Day – that it takes a few loops to even slightly care about his problems, while pregnant Anna is too much a plot token (Adam’s reward is family) to hold her own. Nevertheless, it’s commendably ingenious and has a nice, rough-ish, gritty feel.