We’ve seen our fair share of time loop stories recently, most notably the Emmy nominated Netflix series Russian Doll and Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day 2U. It’s tough walking into yet another similarly formatted story without wondering, can this one possibly bring something new to the table? And in the case of The Incredible Shrinking Wknd, the answer is a resounding, yes.
Jon Mikel Caballero’s feature directorial debut puts the focus on Alba (Iria del Río), a young woman ready for a weekend getaway with her boyfriend Pablo (Adam Quintero) and their friends. They enjoy some dinner, many drinks and a little hiking the next day but when it’s time to head home, Alba suddenly realizes she’s back in the van again – arriving at their vacation home. From there Alba continues to re-experience the trip, losing one hour of the day every go-around.
One of the most refreshing attributes of The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is the fact that it doesn’t lean on or overindulge in that high concept. The time loop is key to Alba’s journey and there are a few fun plot points within it, a favorite of which is that while her friends reset, Alba is still the same so it hits a point when she hasn’t showered in days. But none of these time travel-style devices ever come at the expense of Alba’s arc. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The time loop is very clearly present in the script strictly to support her growth throughout the film. The movie is less about Alba trying to find a way out and more so about what she can do with the extra time. And to be frank, there’s a lot Alba needs to accomplish.
She’s got a bit of a messy life. She’s surrounded by friends who are making career movies and settling down. Meanwhile, she’s partying harder than ever, living with her father and can’t seem to fully commit to her relationship with Pablo. These aren’t things Alba can figure out in one shot, and the movie never suggests that there’s one right answer. She can only find the best possible path by assessing and reassessing what certain choices would mean for her and also for the people around her. That quality makes The Incredible Shrinking Wknd an especially thoughtful and engaging use of the time loop structure. Rather than Alba using each loop to get from point A to point B and so on in an effort to solve a puzzle with just one solution, she makes mistakes as any human being might, struggles with uncertainty and managing her emotions, with her “way out” evolving right before the viewer’s eyes.
There’s a lot to Caballero’s work behind the lens that proves to be vital to successfully telling Alba’s story, namely the naturalistic shooting style and the surprisingly effective shrinking frame that only enhances the ticking clock in the movie, but so much of The Incredible Shrinking Wknd rests on del Río’s performance. The script navigates the time loops in a very raw, rich manner and del Río runs with it, turning Alba into an extremely complex, highly engaging individual. The entire ensemble delivers just what they need for their roles, but del Río has that quality where, no matter how much is happening around her, your eye is immediately drawn to her.
The Incredible Shrinking Wknd does take a little time to find its footing, which likely has something to do with the rapid fire subtitles at the beginning, some of which are for song lyrics that, on first watch, aren’t vital to the story. The color palette is also a tad muted and that does give the piece a bit of a sleepy vibe before the pressure of the situation kicks in, but once it does, the connection del Río strikes up with the viewer is all-consuming and, in the end, deeply and beautifully satisfying.