'The Incredible Shrinking Wknd' Review: It's Like 'Groundhog Day,' But For Breaking Up [Fantasia Film Festival 2019]

We've all had moments we wish we could redo, so that we could say something better or not say it at all. If only we could get a redo, another take...The Incredible Shrinking Wknd, written and directed by Jon Mikel Caballero, is the story of Alba (Iria del Rio), a young woman freshly turned 30 who still lives with her parents. She's the life of the party whom everyone loves until the music stops. Her and five friends trek out to a cottage for the weekend to celebrate her birthday and get drunk in the woods. Right off the bat, we findt that Alba is a bit of a clutz, having forgotten to mention that the cottage has no running water. Luckily, they have plenty of beer, which they drink en masse along with a big dinner. It all seems to be going well, until mere hours after arriving, Pablo (Adam Quintero), Alba's boyfriend of three years, breaks up with her. More precisely, he says he needs time. Instead, he freezes in time and Alba is afforded just that. A few moments later Alba is transported back to the passenger seat of the car, on her way to the cottage. Unaware at first that the day is repeating itself, Alba thinks that they are staying an extra day. When Pablo breaks up with her again, she suspects that something is off. Like maybe the linearity of time. When the pattern repeats itself a couple more times, Alba begins to take matters into her own hands. She breaks up with Pablo as soon as they arrive at the cottage so as to have the upper hand and enjoy herself. However, she soon starts to realize that she is not stuck in an infinite time loop. With each repetition, one hour is subtracted. This impending deadline makes Alba suddenly goal-oriented. With 10 loops left, she must somehow convince Pablo to stay with her. In a long montage, Alba dedicates herself to acts of kindness to show Pablo that she loves him. She cooks him a dinner that she stages in various locations, hoping that each one will be more romantic the next and makes a DIY water pump so that he can shower. Rinse, repeat. As hard as she tries, however, it's a matter of too little and too late for Pablo, who has grown tired of Alba's directionless lifestyle. It's the Groundhog Day of break-up movies, while also reflecting on the anxieties of turning 30. Yet, as watchable as del Rio is, the film fails to present compelling characters. The initial breakup comes out of nowhere and their relationship lacks specificity. What are their in-jokes, what issues (besides Alba's aimlessness) are at the root of their rupture? Put simply, they are not a believable couple. Moreover, though Alba's discovery about the finitude of the cycles focuses her, it fails to focus the narrative. There are a few tangents involving Alba's father, a dug-up childhood treasure and illicit kisses that, instead of adding richness to the story, muddle it. Cinema, with its fixed running time, has a soft spot for time loops and fissures. Audiences feel differently about the prospect of repeating a sliver of time ad infinitum. By the end of Groundhog Day, Bill Murray has become closer to perfection at everything he tries his hand at. For some, that sounds like heaven. For others, it's a living hell. So the idea of living through a breakup and trying to prevent it might be a welcome challenge to some, but to others a pain better avoided. Alba and Pablo's ill-defined relationship makes you wonder why she's working so hard to save it. Her tireless efforts no doubt point to her feelings for him, but there are no hints that their relationship is worth holding onto. Time isn't the only thing that shrinks in the film. As the film progresses, the frame line shrinks, closing in on its characters and their surroundings. It's a clever device in theory, but in practice it has little to no effect, feeling more like a gimmick than formal invention. Time loops films are often interested in what behaviours are so ingrained that they are a guaranteed occurrence. Only here, that interest takes the shape of a few lines of dialogue that repeat every time Alba wakes up in the passenger seat. These dull lines become more tiresome with each repetition. The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is an admirable venture into the time-loop genre, but one that misses an opportunity to explore the consistencies and inconsistencies of relationships. What is circumstantial and what is behavioural? A time-loop is akin to peeling an onion. Each repetition getting you closer to some kind of truth. Unfortunately, the truth in The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is not all that interesting.  /Film Rating: 6 out of 10