‘The Incredible Shrinking Wknd’ ('El increíble finde menguante'): Film Review | Fantasia 2019

Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival
'Groundhog Day' gets a hangover in a film seeking new directions this mini-genre can go.

Jon Mikel Caballero's fantasy watches a time loop contract on a woman whose relationship is in crisis.

Six 30-year-old friends take a trip to the forest, and one keeps unwillingly returning for more, in The Incredible Shrinking Wknd, a Spanish time-loop fantasy where the span of time being repeated gets shorter with each iteration. Jon Mikel Caballero's debut has a game heroine in Iria del Rio, whose Alba suffers some emotional upheaval while being the only character aware of what's going on. But it draws less satisfying connections between the magical event and its character's needs than its best predecessors have, and an appealing setting can only pick up so much slack. Prospects for a Stateside theatrical pickup are slim, though streaming services may find the pic an appealing way to round out their Spanish-language offerings.

Alba is the organizer of this little getaway, in which three couples are renting a house in a beautiful area she used to visit as a child. Her pals are so taken with the place they quickly forgive her for not knowing it has no running water, and somehow cook up a delicious dinner that segues into drunken charades and karaoke. As in most such cinematic reunions, old friends have some possibly upsetting news to share, and those who've taken conventional life paths have trouble hiding their disapproval of those who haven't. But the bombshell is when Alba's boyfriend Pablo (Adam Quintero) reluctantly tells her he needs some time — a euphemism, she's sure, for ending their three year-old relationship. As the trip is winding to an uncomfortable close, all Alba's companions suddenly freeze in space; a minute passes, something happens, and she wakes up back in the van at the start of the weekend as if the last day hadn't happened.

Once she's past her disbelief that this is happening (which includes some lashing out at people who won't remember it when the cycle repeats), Alba relaxes into the phenomenon and tries to find strategies for making the weekend more pleasant. She starts preemptively breaking up with Pablo before they've even unpacked the van, for instance, the better to enjoy the night's revelry. But then she realizes that each of her cycles through this trip is an hour shorter than the last, and her awareness that the loop will be finite focuses her mind.

There's a metaphor in here for every thirty-something's realization that youth is running out, that a given relationship might be one's last chance to make life match her expectations. But the film doesn't do a great job depicting whatever epiphany suddenly inspires Alba to make each loop a mission to reaffirm her connection with Pablo. She becomes goal-oriented, reawakening each time and springing into a plan; given how time-consuming her self-imposed projects are (one is a DIY plumbing project), viewers may start urging her to try an alternate route when the first several attempts fail. Part of the pleasure of a time-loop film is seeing what repeats with each iteration, and how those landmarks or obstacles weave into the action; but here, most such moments are enacted voluntarily, to frustrating effect. (The one reliably repeating element outside Alba's control is a lame bit of dialogue that gets lamer each time we re-hear it.)

Reasonably enough, the film does little with the five characters onscreen around its heroine — or the one, her father, who appears only as a voice on the phone. But when hints emerge suggesting that self-involvement could be the problem the universe is twisting itself up to help her solve, the emotional trajectory of Caballero's script becomes hard to follow. Alba pays increasing attention to one loved one for a few spins 'round the weekend, then abandons him to focus on other goals. While the movie's end (and the cute formal gimmick accompanying it) provide some emotional satisfaction, the feeling doesn't hold up to much scrutiny after the credits roll.

Production companies: Montreux Entertainment, Trepa Muros
Cast: Iria del Rio, Adam Quintero, Irene Ruiz, Jimmy Castro, Adrian Exposito, Nadia de Santiago
Director-Screenwriter: Jon Mikel Caballero
Producers: Jon Mikel Caballero, Pedro de la Escalera, Belen Estevas-Guilmain
Director of photography: Tania da Fonseca
Production designer: Carmen Albacete Gomez
Costume designer: Miguel Apresa
Editor: Miguel A Trudu
Composer: Luis Hernaiz
Venue: Fantasia Film Festival

In Spanish
93 minutes