“No matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I am happy now, because I am in love with you.” This is the line that releases Phil Conners (Bill Murray) from his apparently endless string of Groundhog Days. Why does it have this power, how does it liberate him? Because he finally finds a way to be present to the present, to deserve it. And isn’t his desert a matter of his finally risking himself, finally becoming more than a visitor in Punxsutawny, in his own life, tethering himself and his happiness to the town and to Rita? When he says to Rita, at the end of the movie, “Let’s live here!” he expresses a decision he has, without realizing it, already made. By choosing to stay, he earns the freedom to leave.
Phil’s problem is not that he is trapped in today, but that he has constantly withheld himself from today, never had a today. He lives Groundhog Day over and over and over; but not today. His first today precedes his first tomorrow in a very, very long time. Phil abandoned today long before he got to Punxsutawny. The only way to have a tomorrow is to have a today.