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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Fantastic Fest 2023: River Review

By Jonathan Bilski
Time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future...and yet we're stuck in a time loop (sighs) again. River is the latest from director Junta Yamaguchi, who did Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes. In his latest time shenanigans film, a group of hotel guests and workers are stuck forever in two minutes. Repeating the same two minutes, but keeping their memories. There's a lot to play around with that and trying to solve why it's happening sets up what I thought would be more of a perseverance and adventure for our leading time travel lady, it didn't.
Mikoto, played by the cutely voiced Riko Fujitani, is a waitress who works at the Fujiya Inn. She and the rest of her fellow hotel staff slowly realize they're trapped in a time loop. At first, the so polite and helpful sense of Japanese culture has everyone easily explaining the problem to guests without anyone freaking out.
What a golden set-up for hi-jinks to ensue and in a wonderful setting. The beautiful inn and notable river our leading lady resets too every two minutes stands out for a self-contained time travel story. The inn can even have the seasons change making for some lovely snowy days on resets. It makes you want to visit.
This is where I thought our heroine would be the one to figure out everyone's problems and solve whatever was causing the time loop as you could feel the cracks if you've ever seen a drama or RPG or watched a bit of television.
There's a few twists that I didn't expect like a mysterious hidden man in a room and plenty of side characters to listen their problems. It just doesn't pay-off as much as I had hoped. 

There's some fun, even dark jokes and some ridiculous what will you do with two minutes scenarios that I wanted to mean more for Mikoto to get the bottom of.
It just becomes more of a playful romantic comedy. Mikoto seemingly wished to the River G-d to freeze time so her boyfriend doesn't move away to France to learn to be a French Chef (ugh, so tropey).

She also isn't the level headed character I thought she was at the start. Where I thought it was going was she was going to lead and solve the time loop problem and help fix everyone's issues. In the end, she was just another person stuck in the time loop with her own issues she needed to settle.

Everyone does work together to solve the real problem, ridiculous as it is, but it robs our heroine of well, being the hero.

To me this film would be better as a special made for TV or just straight to Hulu. It's lioke an extended episode of a TV show you've been watching.

Screener link was provided by festival for review purposes.