SXSW 2024: ‘Omni Loop’ is a Winning and Wondrous Tale about Time

Bernardo Britto’s Omni Loop is a film that meets its protagonist well into her ever-repeating loop and extracts surprising humor and meaning from her circular journeys.
User Rating: 8

Time loops present infinite possibilities, but it can be hard to figure a way out of them that both makes sense and offers audiences a satisfying conclusion. Rationalizing how it started in the first place and how it can be escaped won’t necessarily lead anywhere productive, but how else can reliving the same day or week be resolved? Bernardo Britto’s Omni Loop is a film that meets its protagonist well into her ever-repeating loop and extracts surprising humor and meaning from her circular journeys.

Zoya (Mary-Louise Parker) wakes up in a hospital room, where her daughter Jayne (Hannah Pearl Utt) tells her that she has good news: Zoya can go home. The less positive news, which Zoya already knows, is that there is a black hole growing inside her, and she has just a week to live. On the bright side, she has a pill she can take once her nose starts bleeding, which will bring her right back to that hospital bed and prevent her from dying. But she’s growing tired of doing the same thing repeatedly since nothing changes, and it’s driving her crazy.

When she steps out of her routine, she bumps into Paula (Ayo Edebiri), who happens to be a student in possession of the science textbook Zoya wrote. After hearing Zoya’s story, she works at a lab and seems willing and even eager to help her figure out what to do. As Zoya shortens the amount of time it takes to convince Paula each time that she’s telling the truth and that they’ve had this conversation many times before, they pour days into research as Zoya avoids her daughter and husband Donald (Carlos Jacott) in the service of finding a way to spend much more time with them.

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This film begins with a scientific approach to this problem, which is a misdirect of sorts since it’s much more about the emotional reaction to reliving the same events and not being able to change the past or the future. There’s a shrunken man who, the subject of an incredible and arguably successful experiment, has gotten so small that he’s now kept in a box in a drawer because no one knows what to do with him, assuming that he’ll eventually shrink enough to the point where he disappears. For now, he can quickly analyze tiny particles because time passes differently for him, but his findings only confirm one thing about the pills Zoya has to keep sending her back: that they’re unlike anything else, and it’s impossible to understand how they work. 

There are certain potential solutions that Zoya and Paula haven’t tried for a long time or at all, and audiences may wonder why that is, especially considering how many times Zoya has had the opportunity to pursue new options. But this film feels most resonant in Zoya’s reflection that she can’t even remember if they had suggested or explored something in the past because she’s lost track. While she could start each week with a new area of research, she’s been through this monotonous process so many times that she can’t hold it all in her memory. At one point, she expresses that she’s not sure she ever made it to a particular moment, truly lost in the loneliness of it all. 

Louise-Parker has just the right disposition to play Zoya, perpetually irritated and full of snarky comments. Edebiri always plays a variation of the same kind of role, and this is a fantastic twist since the possibility of a scientific solution entices Paula but also gets bogged down by the setbacks they encounter. Together, they’re great fun to watch and handle the film’s comedic and dramatic material well. Omni Loop, named for a section of the Miami Metromover train its characters frequently ride, comes to a resounding conclusion that isn’t entirely definitive but serves as the perfect ending for a story that is always just out of its characters’ control.

Abe Friedtanzer’s rating for Omni Loop is a 8/10

Summary
Omni Loop, named for a section of the Miami Metromover train its characters frequently ride, comes to a resounding conclusion that isn’t entirely definitive, but serves as the perfect ending for a story that is always just out of its characters’ control.
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