By now we’re all familiar with time loop movies, in which some poor soul is trapped in a seemingly-endless loop, and must relive the same day over and over again. Such a small genre can already feel like it’s worn out its welcome; Edge of Tomorrow took the idea and applied it to a sci-fi action flick, Happy Death Day applied it to slasher movies, and there’s only so many other places you can take the concept. And yet, Jon Mikel Caballero found a new vein to mine in the sub-genre, and the result is The Incredible Shrinking WKND. With just a few added wrinkles and formal quirks, Caballero has breathed a bit of new life into the time loop movie — enough at least to make the prospect of watching yet another one seem interesting.
The Incredible Shrinking WKND finds shiftless youth Alba on a weekend trip with her friends, including her boyfriend, Pablo. She’s a version of a character we’ve seen a whole lot — aimless, flaky, and in many ways on the run from responsibility and commitment. And so, the group has left the city, with a plan to spend the weekend in Alba’s family’s cabin, a place rife with childhood memories for her. During their second day of the trip, Alba suddenly finds herself back in the car on the drive over, the weekend having begun all over. However, there’s a twist: Alba eventually realizes that each cycle is shorter than the one previous, meaning that she has a limited amount of time to escape the shrinking loop before it tightens around her neck. Is she here to break up with her boyfriend? Patch up their degrading relationship? Learn to be a better person all around? The clock is ticking for her to find out.
In addition to this new element brought to the formula, The Incredible Shrinking WKND has another quirk to help it stand out — one you’ll probably begin to notice around midway through the film. As the loop closes tighter and tighter around Alba, the image slowly goes from a comfortable widescreen to a more narrow image, eventually becoming perfectly square before narrowing even further. Caballero isn’t the first filmmaker to play with aspect ratios, but his choice to couch this idea within the film’s text by having the shrinking width of the frame mirror the increasingly short timespan of Alba’s weekend is a rather ingenious one.
This is what film nerds mean when they talk about filmmakers who use the language of cinema to help tell the story: rather than simply relying on dialogue and acting, Caballero is using the medium’s conventions themselves. In the same way a canny director can use a well-placed edit or camera movement to accentuate the mood, themes, or atmosphere of a piece, Caballero’s device of having the screen literally contract before our eyes reinforces The Incredible Shrinking WKND‘s motif of losing time. It’s a clever device, one that adds a welcome new dimension.
Of course, the film doesn’t simply rest on this visual device alone. Iria del Río makes for a charming and likeable lead, taking a character type we’re all familiar and making it feel like more than just a stale trope. Many of us have been where Alba is during the events of the story — unsure of our place in the world or our trajectory in life, and uneasy around anything that brings us face to face with that black gulf of uncertainty ahead of us.
Despite a thematic and visual ticking clock, however, The Incredible Shrinking WKND does still find a bit of time to meander. There’s often not quite as much anxiety or tension as there feels like there ought to be, and more than a few odd asides feel as though they were meant to develop into something with greater significance. Alba has a few encounters with members of the supporting cast, for example, that speak to a deeper narrative that never quite breaks the surface.
But these few nagging problems aside, there’s a whole lot to like in The Incredible Shrinking WKND. The time loop formula may be getting stale, but a clever script bolstered by a strong lead can make even the most worn-out premise feel fresh, and Caballero has delivered a fine example.
The Fantasia Film Festival runs July 11 – August 1. Visit the official website for more information.