I remember when I turned 30 I had this sudden vivid recollection of my mother's own 30th birthday -- my father had helped me craft a gigantic birthday card for her upon which he'd had me call her "Dirty Thirty." I was only seven myself at the time so I had no idea what "Dirty Thirty" meant, but it sounded dirty. Mostly, looking back at this as I hit my own Dirty Thirty, I didn't focus in on that being an inappropriate message for a son to deliver his mother -- what struck me more was that my mother celebrated 30 with a kid big enough to craft cards and still vividly remember the occasion 23 years later. I still felt like a kid at 30. What the hell was I doing with my life?
I think 30 represents that feeling for most of us -- heck, my parents split up not long after hitting their 30s, so my guess is they were experiencing it themselves. And Jon Mikel Caballero's fantastical time-loop film The Incredible Shrinking Wknd twists the now well-established Groundhog Day template to explore just that sensation -- Alba (Iria del Río) steps through a stone tunnel in the woods while on vacation with her friends and the day starts repeating, but growing smaller each time by an hour; her bacchanalia's finite, an expiration date suddenly stamped across her forehead. How will she fill the hours? How will she find meaning for them before they're spent?
Conceptually Caballero's film works pretty ingeniously to get across both that sensation as well as the feeling of a party life lived out, where every night feels so the same you're sick to death of it and are aching for the change you nevertheless don't see coming -- before Alba realizes she's got to figure her shit out she wastes a ton of time on frivolities, running herself ragged with an endless barrage of drinks and drugs. She lashes out at every friend, smashes up and puts back together every relationship like a tantrum-prone toddler, the last drops of youth shaking out in gasps and fits. Rebirth is still a little death every day.
And it's only once you see the air leaking out that you scramble frantic to find a footing, a game of musical chairs where it's your future suddenly on the line -- Caballero unleashes a neat visual trick that sneaks up on you to capture this claustrophobic moment, leading to some astonishingly lovely imagery in the film's magical and emotional second half, and del Río's lovely performance rises to meet the moving pictures she finds herself framed against. If only my own Dirty Thirty moment had been rendered with such grace.