“Omni Loop” begins at the midway point of “Groundhog Day.” Within the first five minutes, we learn that Zoya Lowe (Mary-Louise Parker) is stuck in a time loop that sees her reliving the last week of her life. She wakes up, receives a terminal diagnosis, spends some doctor-recommended quality time with her family, gets a nosebleed, takes a pill, and wakes up in the hospital again. Again and again, until she can predict exactly when a bird is going to poop on the bench where she sits with a chatty resident of her mom’s retirement home. It’s a priceless opportunity to delay the inevitable, and honestly? She’s over it. 

There’s one detail of Zoya’s dilemma not mentioned above that really illuminates what type of move this is: Zoya isn’t dying of a brain tumor or an aggressive cancer, but a black hole in her chest. A tiny one, but the same kind of black hole that sucks whole galaxies into their gravitational pull in deep space. Writer-director Bernardo Britto’s latest is one of those lo-fi sci-fi movies that weaves the impossible into the mundane texture of everyday life — which tracks with his previous work, which includes a tenure as a staff writer on “Los Espookys” and the 2016 mockumentary “Jacqueline Argentine.” 

That being said, “Omni Loop” could use a little more of a sci-fi flavor. There’s the black hole, of course, and a charming bit involving a scientist who’s slowly shrinking into subatomic oblivion. But these light, quirky touches recede into the background as the film goes along, replaced with an “Everything Everywhere All At Once” type of sentiment that’s disappointingly rote compared to the astute and thoughtful first half. 

Because while the film’s time-loop premise does engage with the usual themes of appreciating every moment and the preciousness of life, it also ties the concept to the scientific method in a way that feels fresh and interesting. Scientific research is all about replicating results and attempting the same experiment over and over until it works. It takes patience, and can be tedious and repetitive — kind of like Zoya’s existence. 

Zoya is a physicist, one who didn’t have the patience to be a researcher and has made a career out of writing textbooks with her husband Donald (Carlos Jacott). Back when she was in graduate school, she attempted to unlock the mechanism behind the mysterious bottle of pills she found in a field when she was 12 that allows her to manipulate time. She couldn’t quite hack it back then, but now getting out of her hellish rut — without actually dying, of course — has become an emergency. And so she calls on Paula (Ayo Edebiri), a physics student at a local community college, for help. 

It takes a while to talk Paula into going along with this random woman who shows up at her door ranting about time travel, of course. Edebiri has one of the best skeptical faces in the business, and she makes use of it in comedic scenes where Zoya refines her pitch to Paula. Her role is less nuanced than Parker’s, and — through no fault of her own — her performance is less layered as a result. Parker, meanwhile, experiences a staggering range of emotions, usually wordlessly, and sometimes in the same shot. 

Britto and Martin Anderson’s editing is nimble, making clever use of montages and match cuts. It keeps the cheeky mood up — until Zoya has to accept that she might die without understanding all of the mysteries of the universe. This is where “Omni Loop” gets heavy. The last half-hour of this film is quite sad, and while Parker leads the audience through this tonal shift with grace, the script underlines its most anodyne thematic elements in its final scenes. Then it keeps hammering them throughout multiple endings, until the audience starts wondering if they’re stuck in a time loop of their own. 

Grade: B

“Omni Loop” premiered at SXSW 2024. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

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