Groundhog Day

In my recent interview with Matthieu Ricard in Singapore, I asked him what some of his favourite movies were. He said he likes movies that “give hope in human nature” and gave two examples. One was Groundhog Day – one of my favourite movies too.

So I watched it again, after some years, and appreciated it even more. (This post has spoilers so please come back if you’d prefer to watch the movie first.)

Scrooge-like Phil is made to re-live the same day over and over again. It’s a call for him to transform. And he does, first negatively. Initially he breaks all the rules and takes the hedonistic route, since he only has one day to live. Then he tries to court his producer but more as a conquest.  Then an encounter with death starts to transform him. He learns to love more and more people…and breaks through.

As Ricard said,  Phil’s way “fails, fails, fails until compassion comes in.”


The links I share below have many enlightening thoughts on the movie. I would just add:

  • One of the most precious messages of the film that I take away is that life lessons present themselves to us again and again and trigger pain until we learn them. There’s no point changing jobs or a relationship that isn’t working if you don’t change.
  • Phil’s breakthrough comes only when his love becomes much more expansive and includes many others, beyond trying to win the love of one woman.
  • People change, even if sometimes the change is initially tiny and imperceptible. If you believe in your own power to change, you’ll find it easier to believe in other’s.
  • If you had a day/month/year to live, how would you spend it? Phil learns to love people, a town he hated, himself and his work. He learns new skills that add beauty to the world. Each encounter with someone becomes rich and meaningful.
  • He is transformed by the death of the old man. Will you let your own impending death or those of people around you transform you? For most of the past two years I’ve been living as if it’s my last year to live and I would recommend this to most people. More on death. 

I recently read “Wheel of Life” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who was the world’s eminent expert on death and dying. Some of the key messages she shared in the book were:

” The sole purpose of life is growth.” 

“When you learn your lessons, the pain goes away.”

“Every one of the thousand of patients I spoke to about their near-death experiences recalled going into the light and being asked, “How much love have you been able to give and receive? How much service have your rendered?”

This movie captures these very lessons powerfully.

The following links provide excellent, deeply reflective observations and questions on the film. I’ve pulled out some extracts from each of them.

“The first thing that most of us do when we realize we are stuck is to look to make changes in our outer lives. This might mean changing jobs or leaving a relationship or making a grand new year’s resolution to change the way we look. Such changes rarely have the desired effect because we are changing the wrong things.

A new job, a new car or a new look might bring a fleeting send of happiness but it soon disappears. To bring about genuine change we need to change the way we see ourselves and the world, we need to change our inner lives and escape our conditioning….

When you accept you are stuck, and accept that only you can change your life, you start to move on and break out of your rut. Like Phil, you accept that your old self and your old beliefs are no longer working; and you stop blaming others and begin to change yourself instead. This is truly transformative.”

Groundhog Day: A Values and Vision Guide by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

“If your spiritual task was to work on diminishing your egocentricity, where would you begin? What tasks do you believe you’re here to accomplish? What character flaws would you like to work on?”

“What have you learned about the shadow side of your personality in love relationships? What flaws in yourself have you come to accept?”

Groundhog Day – Breakthrough to the true self by Ken Sanes

“Like many of the heroes of fiction, he can only escape his exile from himself by being exiled in a situation not of his choosing.”

Seeing the shadow by Dairyu Michael Wenger Sensei (For Buddhist readers)

Why not screen the movie for friends, at work or other communities you belong to and have a discussion after? Share this post. The above links provide excellent possible discussion points.  After your screening, do post any comments you have in this post or on the facebook page.

(Please note that a licence is needed to screen movies outside your home in Singapore. Contact the Motion Picture Licencing Company (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.  )

Thank you to Matthieu Ricard for sharing this gem with us. Let us make best use of it.

PS: Punxsutawney was the town that Phil wanted to leave yet finally ended up staying there – not because it had changed but because he had changed himself. It reminds me of my relationship with Singapore…. 

Related: More Inspiring Movies


Movie: 3 idiots

Really enjoyed this! At the core of “3 idiots” is the courage and creativity of a young man who questions an education system that promotes memorising and regurgitating and lacks compassion.  Would be especially useful for teachers and leaders of educational institutions as well as other leaders who would like to encourage new ways of thinking.

In Hindi with English subtitles, available from Video Ezy for rent and for sale from Mustafa Centre.

Thanks to Doug O’Loughlin for recommending it! Doug’s workshop is coming up. :)

Movie: Mary and Max

Brilliant. Poignant. Profound. Nuanced. Quirky. Contemplative.

Here’s my super-quick version of what this movie is about.

Friendship. Loneliness. What makes us different. What makes us similar. What connects us. What drives us apart. Our imperfections. Apologising. Forgiveness. Our fears.  Inter-generational patterns. What breaks patterns. And most of all, what this piece of candy says below…

Writer, director and designer Adam Elliot writes:

“A lot of people say they often feel different; that they don’t fit in. I am one of those people. Even with all the success, acknowledgement and acceptance that has been derived from my films, I often still feel alone and not in tune with the rest of the world. I often feel sad, persecuted and unsure about things; I find the world so often unjust. I truly empathise with the lost and disregarded; marginalised and melancholic. I am drawn to these people and their stories; I cannot help it.”

So expect the movie to have dark moments. It isn’t a feel-good movie. But it has many gems.

Watch trailer. Visit website.  Watch at Orchard Cineleisure in Singapore now. Available on itunes in the US.

PS: If you watch it, what did you connect with the most and why?

Related: Love story – with yourself, Greatest Love of All, Be compassionate – to yourself , The “F” word

Lists of Inspiring Movies

"This is a story of two teenagers from opposite sides of the tracks fall in love during one summer together, but are tragically forced apart. When they reunite seven years later, their passionate romance is rekindled, forcing one of them to choose between true love and class order" - The Fetzer Institute

List of movies recommended by the Campaign for Love and Forgiveness by The Fetzer Institute.

Top 10 Movies on Character Strengths by the VIA Institute on Character which also has questions we can ask ourselves so we learn more from these movies. And here’s a list of movies for various character strengths.

"One of the most popular films ever made, perhaps due to the ease an individual can relate to the story of a man wrongfully imprisoned but never giving up hope." - Ryan Niemiec of The VIA Institute on Character

The Positive Psychology Oscars of 2010 by Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist, coach, and Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character.

The Positive Psychology Oscars of 2011 by Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist, coach, and Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character.

Positive Psychology Oscars: Honorable Mention by Ryan Neimiec

"Sometimes our best teachers are situations in which we use too much or too little of our best capacities. Natalie Portman’s brilliant and raw portrayal of a competitive and troubled ballet dancer depicts an overuse of perseverance and self-regulation and underuse of judgment and perspective to create an imbalance that leads to her downfall." - Ryan Niemiec

Uplifting Films by Elliot Landy, a well-known photographer whose images of Woodstock and sixties music personalities such as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix are recognised worldwide.

"The film shows that love and communication are more powerful in getting what you want than violence and intimidation, that you should believe in your ideas, even if no one else does, and has lots of other positive messages for kids and adults alike." - Elliott Landy of

Here’s a list of movies to help you reflect on finding your calling in life.

Reel Therapy – Meaningful thoughts on meaningful movies

Positive Psychology at the Movies

Movies on Integrity

The American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Films of All Time.


Enjoy these movies with family and friends, in schools, community and grassroots organisations, companies and religious organisations etc.

(PS: I’ve learnt the importance of respecting intellectual property over time. If you are watching/screening movies outside of your home, you need a licence in Singapore. You can apply for licences from the Motion Picture Licencing Company (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. You may also need other approval from authorities.)

Movie: Crash

If I were to choose one word to describe “Crash”, it would be “stunning”. Watch trailer. It won an Academy Award for “Best Picture” in 2006.  Oprah says, “I believe everybody should have this in their movie collection.”

Some experiences are hard to describe and this is one of them. These are the words and themes it brings up for me – Hurt people hurt people. Dignity. Power. Race. Prejudice. Grey areas. Unlikely friends. Shared humanity. Real. Honest. Miracles. Transformation. 


Graham:  It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.

Reflection: Perhaps this applies here in Singapore too…? Conflict is ultimately a yearning for connection.

Jean: I am angry, Yes, at them, yes! At them, the police, at Rick, at Maria, at the dry cleaners who destroyed another blouse today, at the gardener who keeps overwatering the lawn. I…I just thought that Carol..I just thought that I would wake up today  and I would feel better, you know?  But I was still mad. And I realized…I realized that it had nothing to with with my car with stolen. I wake up like this every morning! I am angry all the time… and I don’t know why.

She slips and falls down the stairs after this.

Reflection: Are you like Jean? I sense quite a lot of people moving around with anger, waiting for the smallest thing to trigger an explosion or a criticism… and in a way, this scene shows that when we hold so much unresolved anger within us, they manifest in the external world. In this case, she fell down. Science is also showing how negative emotions lead to serious illnesses.


Jean has a fall and she calls her friend of ten years who can’t help her because she is having a massage. The only person who is there for her is her helper.

Jean: Do you want to hear something funny?
Maria: What’s that Mrs. Jean?
Jean: You’re the best friend I’ve got.

Reflection: Have you ever thought of your domestic worker as a potential friend? And first, a human being?


Daniel, whom Jean called a “gang member” because of the way he looked, turns out to be a very caring father. 

Daniel: She had these little stubby wings, like she could’ve glued them on, you know, like I’m gonna believe she’s a fairy. So she said, “I’ll prove it.” So she reaches into her backpack and she pulls out this invisible cloak and she ties it around my neck. And she tells me that it’s impenetrable. You know what impenetrable means? It means nothing can go through it. No bullets, nothing. She told me that if I wore it, nothing would hurt me. So I did. And my whole life, I never got shot, stabbed, nothing. I mean, how weird is that?

Reflection: What’s your invisible cloak?

Farhad: She was my firishta. (Referring to a little girl)

Dorri: What are you talking about?

Farhad: She was my firishta…My angel. She saved me. She saved us all.

Reflection: Angels can come in unlikely shapes and sizes. I have found angels and teachers among migrant workers, taxi drivers, our dog, Max, and others who don’t have big titles. We lose huge opportunities for wisdom, joy and growth when we look for angels and teachers who only fit into our image of what a teacher should be (highly educated, hold a big title, etc).  Would you be able to recognise yours when they appear? They are sometimes much closer than we think….

Angels come in many forms...they don't always have wings or fancy titles...can you see the angels and teachers around you?

Oprah’s interview with “Crash” cast members

“Crash” star Thandi Newton speaks eloquently of what she learnt from Oprah about moving from being a victim of racism to a change agent.  

“Crash” is available at Video Eazy in Singapore. Watch the section where the director and actors share their thoughts about it too.

Related: Would you sit next to me on the bus? Healing my Prejudices, Ways to Build Unity

Movie: It’s A Wonderful Life


What would the world be like if you hadn't been born? (Image source: Wikipedia Commons)

Some movies nourish us…and I thought I’ll share some that nourish me.

My first movie recommendation is Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” about a man who views his life differently on the Christmas eve that he decides to commit suicide.

It has been named by the American Film Institute to be one of the 100 best American films made.  It also tops their list of most inspirational American films of all time. 

What would the world be like if you hadn’t been born? 

That’s what the movie asks us to ponder. What a great question.

It is also a great movie for leaders on how their decisions affect so many lives. (In the movie, the businesses are banks…)

I’m not sure about sacrificing so much of one’s personal dreams  so consistently for others. I prefer the idea of loving oneself as we love others…but the film still works on many other levels for me.

My favourite lines..

On being discouraged

Clarence (who’s protagonists’ guardian angel being sent on his mission): Is he sick?

Joseph (head angel): No, worse, he’s discouraged.

On different kinds of businessmen (though I would prefer a nonviolent version of this myself..!)

George: Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about…..they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!


George: We’ve got to have faith in each other. 


Clarence’s note to George: “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends…. “

And my favourite message from the movie is that what goes around comes around…

PS ~  Movies I recommend should be available in at least one of the DVD rental stores/online stores in Singapore unless I say otherwise. I got mine from Video Ezy. This dvd is also available at the national library branch at the Esplanade.

~ If possible, why not do movie nights with family, friends or colleagues and have a little chat afterword about it? That chat enables reflection and exchange of new ideas and holds the possibility for more transformation than just watching the movie and heading off afterward. 

~ If you do watch something you read about on this blog, would love to hear from you on how it went!