Film Review: 10.000 KM

Can technology keep a long-distance relationship alive? That’s the question posed by this formally inventive and absorbing Spanish-language drama.
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Carlos Marques-Marcet’s bold debut feature 10.000 KM is a formal experiment that works, thanks to an ingenious match of its form to its themes, and the riveting work of its cast of two. This intelligent case study of a modern relationship explores the limits of today’s technological means of connection when a couple is forced to live a country and an ocean apart. Is it possible for two people to sustain a long-distance relationship purely through virtual contact? And what does their attempt say about the way we all interact today?

The film opens with a demanding 22-minute take which begins with Alex (Natalia Tena of “Game of Thrones” and the Harry Potter films) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) making love in his Barcelona apartment, getting dressed and preparing breakfast; during this real-time interlude, Alex discovers via e-mail that she’s landed a year-long residency in L.A. for her photography project. Since the couple has been striving to have a baby, this comes as startling news to Sergi, and the pair shuttle back and forth over their feelings until Sergi finally urges Alex to seize the opportunity.

From this lengthy scene, the film immediately jumps to their separate lives in L.A. and Barcelona, usually viewed through their efforts to maintain communication on their MacBooks via Skype. Alex provides a guided tour of her antiseptic-white, sparsely IKEA-furnished apartment and uses Google Maps to share some bland vistas of the city. Sergi attempts to offer cooking tips as he watches Alex frantically prepare a meal for guests. And, of course, there’s a bout of Skype sex which seems to be an effective substitute for the real thing until it goes clinically sour. That sudden disappointment is a harbinger of challenges to come, as appointments are missed and conversations start to feel like a hollow obligation. Tensions increase when Sergi, a student, fails his exams, while Alex’s Facebook page reveals perhaps more about her new life than Sergi needed to know.

With its narrowly focused chronicle of an ebbing romance, 10.000 KM is decidedly an art-house film. But adventurous moviegoers will surely relate to what it says about 21st-century life and the impact of all our technological wonders on human interaction and intimacy. It helps, of course, that the two people on camera are attractive and compelling. With her big, expressive eyes, London-born Spanish actress Tena is mesmerizing in her frequent MacBook close-ups and deftly navigates Alex’s many moods, from her initial loneliness in a new city to her growing confidence as a valued artist. (Her character’s photographic obsessions include camouflaged antennas and desolate images of corporate headquarters.) Sergi, the male, proves the more vulnerable; as Alex’s career stock is rising, his is falling. In their initial Skype sessions, Sergi is endearingly playful, but as his virtual encounters with Alex become more forced, even lethargic, he’s unable to hide his frustration and bitterness. Verdaguer, a Barcelona stage and screen actor, also ably handles the gamut of emotions he’s been assigned.

Alex and Sergi do meet again in the film’s extended final scene, but they are now two different people after less than a year. Will their love survive? It’s an open-ended question that couples who see 10.000 KM will enjoy debating—over drinks and dinner, please, not on FaceTime.

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