Inertia is defined as the tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. This idea of inertia is the backbone for Jon Mikel Caballero’s The Incredible Shrinking WKND (El increíble finde menguante). It’s another addition to the Groundhog Day canon, but inertia doesn’t just pertain to the film’s time loop. The internal and external conflict of the film’s protagonist revolves around the problems of remaining unchanged. As a result, The Incredible Shrinking WKND becomes a journey of personal growth and self-discovery.
Alba (Iria del Río) takes a weekend getaway trip to a country house with her boyfriend and some friends. She’s 30, still living with her dad, while her friends are reveling in career successes. “I’ve got a plan,” she says. But she doesn’t. And that’s why, that night, her boyfriend Pablo (Adam Quintero) suddenly breaks up with her. Pablo complains that, despite being together for three years, nothing’s changed. The next day, Alba finds herself arriving at the country house again, but this repetition doesn’t phase her until Pablo breaks up with her…again. She’s the only one who notices what’s happening.
What’s visually unique about The Incredible Shrinking WKND is that, instead of the time loop being represented by a scene cut and music cue (as has been the case recently with Happy Death Day and Russian Doll), you can see time physically stop and rewind itself with everyone and everything freezing around Alba. As it becomes more obvious to Alba that she’s stuck in a time loop, she breaks up with Pablo first to see if it would change anything. It doesn’t. Alba says, “I’m getting fed up of your attitude, always treating me as if I’m a disaster. But I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” Being at a point in your life where you’re stuck and don’t know what to do is something that’s incredibly relatable and letting that play out within the time loop formula makes for a fascinating watch. Writer-director Caballero didn’t make a film whose main goal was to figure out how to stop the loop, but rather, it’s about how many chances some of us need to better ourselves. And Alba begins to realize, too, that this isn’t about preventing the breakup, it’s about bettering herself.
While the same day is repeated, each time being shorter than the last, Caballero doesn’t make it feel like it’s the same day. There are always interactions between characters that change to make it seem different every time. And while at first the realization that she’s stuck in a time loop makes her disconnected, Alba lets herself go and has fun with this normalcy; giving her control and a sense of stability that perhaps she never has.
While more reasons for the breakup start to unravel throughout the course of the film, its real focus is to remind Alba of the dreams and ambitions she once had. The country house was a place she used to come to as a child, and finding a time capsule she buried as a young girl is really the pinnacle of this story. Iria del Río has the emotional range that perfectly compliments the emotional journey that Alba finds herself on, as she changes and begins to take charge of her life more.
The whole cast is a fun mix, but the film’s greatest achievements come in its superb technical elements. The Incredible Shrinking WKND contains a shot by cinematographer Tânia da Fonseca that’s my favorite of the year: Alba perched on the edge of a cliff, with nothing seen but luscious green hills for miles and the sunset on the horizon. Fonseca really makes good use of the film’s title, as not only does each loop shrink lengthwise, but so, too, does the film’s aspect ratio. Each scene becoming smaller in size until there’s nothing left but black. The Groundhog Day narrative has never been tackled in such a way, and it also features a “Kali Ma!” reference from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom so, naturally, I’m obsessed.
The Incredible Shrinking WKND had its North American premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival.