Carlos Marques-Marcet’s lovely, lovely debut “10,000 KM” opens with an impressively staged single take that manages to convey the entire universe of a longterm relationship in just 23 minutes. We meet Alex (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer), two Barcelonans of millennial age, in the middle of sex. It has the hot abandon of a new courtship, except they’ve been together for seven years.
Later in the same take, delicately choreographed by the first-time director and his DP Dagmar Weaver-Madsen, Alex opens her computer to an unexpected email announcing she has been offered a year-long residency in Los Angeles. She’s a struggling photographer who, amid the tough economic realities for creative types in the post-Internet Age, can’t afford to say no to the offer, and doesn’t.
Save that long take and a (devastating) closing scene, the rest of this subtly melancholic, modern romance spans a year of Alex and Sergi nobly attempting to sustain a long-distance relationship across several continents and an ocean. Marques-Marcet, who shot his film on a Red Epic camera for a dime, interweaves Skype video calls, text messages and fraught phone calls that increasingly reflect a relationship going sour. These technologies, even as they try to recreate a sense of human closeness on flat screens, complicate rather than assuage mounting distrust, suspicions and alienations of affection.
Even as early as a few months into Alex’s LA sojourn, they’re already asking each other questions like “Can we talk about something other than our relationship?” What else is there to talk about when you’re 10,000 km apart leading different lives? Alex is quickly sobered by her own initiation of a video sex session, tilting the computer away from her face as Sergi finishes in absentia.
Unlike the affected qualities of Jason Reitman’s similar approach to technology-bashing “Men, Women and Children,” where social media and digital communication are integrated into the frame to distancing effect, multiple screens add real texture to the this film. (It helps that Alex and Sergi’s fuzzied video chats look like actual video chats.)
While the basic premise of “10,000 KM” is simple at heart, Marques-Marcet’s warm and accessible filmmaking and the note-for-note genuine performances by his arrestingly sexy leads create a memorable experience that anyone who’s tried to overcome the inherent brokenness of a long-distance relationship can plug into. You can’t knock them for trying.
A European Film Award nominee for European Discovery, “10,000 KM” plays AFI Fest in Los Angeles this week, and has been picked up for US distribution by Broad Green Pictures.