No matter what the cynics will have you believe, romance isn’t dead. At least if cinema has anything to say about it, that is. The romantic genre in film has danced a fluctuating line between the grand and cheesy, and the real and deflated, but what about that rather considerable gap in-between? Spanish filmmaker Carlos Marques-Marcet has the answer, as he wades ambitiously into no man’s land with his debut feature.
Very much a contemporary tale of love and distance, 10,000 km follows young couple Alex and Sergi over a year in their lives, as they attempt to cope, both separately and as a pair, when Alex moves to Los Angeles for work, leaving Sergi behind in Barcelona. The film chronicles their romantic and personal struggles, told entirely through a fractured and coupled point-of-view. The duo are the only two characters the film ever sees, and all of the drama is gradually unveiled though dormant cameras and video-calls between the pair.
By following such a direct and raw approach, one would think that Marques-Marcet’s film journeys deeper into the more earthy and realistic side of the romance genre, but this remains far from true. Despite its firm commitment to realism through waves of natural dialogue and extended takes, Marques-Marcet finds real hope and genuine romance in his picture, and somehow does so without ever bordering on the cheesy. By limiting his cast to a mere two, and the entire narrative to simply just the trials and tribulations of their relationship, Marques-Marcet finds the space to really burrow down deep into what it is that makes the pair work, both as individuals and as a couple. Gone are the pointless sub-plots and elaborate comic sequences plaguing every Hollywood rom-com. But also gone are the lingering, mopey shots of lost lovers at the beach, and the melancholic score of indie Sundance favourites. Marques-Marcet creates his own film entirely, 10,000 km serving as a snapshot of real waking life, as opposed to a filmed replication.
Of course, a large part of what allows this to work in such a subtle and affecting way is the film’s two leads. Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer lands their roles and the vital coupled-chemistry straight from the off, to the point where the pair never even feel as if they are acting. No matter if it’s in front of a camera, or on a screen, or even down the phone, the biting realism always remains, gifting 10,000 km with a fiercely emotional and seemingly effortless core which really sells its message.
The only issues Marques-Marcet runs into then, are when this powerfully authentic core is threatened, mostly by rampant editing. The films begins with a mesmerisingly long take, so seamless and un-staged, that it’s near impossible to recognise the fact that Marques-Marcet has left the camera running for nearly twenty minutes without shouting “cut!”. It’s a ridiculously ambitious opening that’s not only pulled off flawlessly, but also subtly. Unfortunately, the rest of the film forever trudges in this introduction’s shadow, the elongated time frame of the narrative forcing frequent cuts and time jumps that sadly drag one right out of the moment. Marques-Marcet’s elongated sequences work best, and this is very plain to see; anything else suffers as a result.
This isn’t to say that 10,000 km is ever fully ruined however. In fact, any frustrations with the film’s pacing simply reflect the characters’ own frustrations with their distanced relationship, creating a tremendously authentic tone nestled in swathes of empathy. Rest assured, this remains a sleek, bold and terrific new look into the inner-workings of love and relationships, particularly those affected by distance. Marques-Marcet’s style is to be admired because with a film this bare, you’ll be retracing it for days.
10,000 km, directed by Carlos Marques-Marcetis, showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival on 9, 10 and 12 October. Tickets are available from whatson.bfi.org.uk. Watch the trailer below: