Have you ever felt stuck? Like life has ground to a halt and you’re not making any kind of forward momentum? Maybe it was made worse by the fact that when you looked around at your friends, you saw them all moving forward in some way. New jobs, new prospects, new adventures—everybody taking that next step except for you. Maybe you were fine with it, and were quite comfortable with where you were, or maybe it felt terrible. We have all been there. It’s a natural part of transitioning into new stages of life. Some people make the jump quickly and others take a bit more time.
It’s that point of stagnation that informs Jon Mikel Caballero’s first feature, The Incredible Shrinking Wknd. The film made its US debut at the North Bend Film Fest, kicking off the second annual festival in a very gratifying way.
Alba (Iria del Río) and her friends head to a cabin for a fun weekend away. After they arrive and settle in, her boyfriend, Pablo (Adam Quintero), breaks up with her. The next day, she finds herself back in the van, once again on the way to the cabin. This scenario plays itself out again and again. Alba spends the night with her friends at the cabin, partying to excess, only to awaken the following day and do it all over again.
As the days go on, Alba begins to learn things about her companions; things that they had not yet told her. For instance, her successful friends Claudia (Irene Ruiz) and Mark (Jimmy Castro) will soon be moving to Germany because Mark has just landed his dream job. Claudia recently found out that she is pregnant. Pablo’s reasons for breaking up with Alba relate to her unwavering party lifestyle and his desire to move forward to a new stage that doesn’t involve constant hangovers. Alba, who has just turned 30 and is more than happy to ignore that fact, has been stuck in a phase of her life that her friends are eager to leave behind. They are moving forward and she is willfully not. She has to come to terms with this fact and figure out how to move through it in order to free herself from repeating this single day.
Sure, the time loop scenario is nothing new, but Caballero adds an interesting feature in that Alba’s loop is finite. Every day that starts is an hour shorter than the last. She has a set period of time to figure out where things have gone wrong and try to mend them. It adds a bit of urgency to her predicament, and also ups the tension when she makes a wrong move.
The cast is wonderful, del Rio in particular. She does a fabulous job of allowing the audience to connect with Alba, who is a charming person, despite her faults. But, importantly, del Rio makes sure we can see these faults. We like Alba, but we can also easily see why her friends are getting tired of her bullshit. It can be a tough line to walk, but del Rio and Caballero really developed this character to be well-rounded enough that we can see her strengths and her flaws equally.
Also noteworthy is the excellent use that Caballero and cinematographer Tânia da Fonseca make of the wooded landscape. The forest setting can play the part of peaceful and idyllic when the scene calls for it, but also feels vaguely threatening and foreboding when needed. Additionally, the aspect ratio of the film changes throughout, becoming more and more narrow as Alba’s time runs shorter and shorter. It effectively communicates the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped as she struggles to break free from the time loop and resume her life.
Ultimately, The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is a clever film that makes good use of its time loop narrative. It takes a familiar idea and pushes it in a bit of a different direction, creating a story that is at once fascinating, true, occasionally unnerving, and always heartfelt.
Movie Score: 5/5