10,000 km (London Film Festival 2014) Review
Beginning with a 20-minute unbroken shot in which a couple have sex before brushing their teeth in separate rooms, Carlos Marques-Marcet crafts a subtly inventive drama full of low-key surprises and emotional ingenuity. 10,000 km might be the first worthwhile attempt to portray a crumbling long-distance relationship in the internet age (usually a predictable narrative), and puts Like Crazy to shame by establishing a believable chemistry that travels across the air miles separating Spain and America.In the opening scene, Sergi (David Verdaguer) and Alex (Natalia Tena) have sex, eat breakfast, and geographically end their Barcelona-based relationship. Alex, a photographer by trade, admits (between sips of orange juice) that she’s been offered a year-long contract in LA and plans to accept. Sergi is helpless in holding onto her, even with the emotional manipulation of playing The Magnetic Fields’ “Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing”, and so begins the next stage: regular communication via webcam, Facebook messages, and using Google Maps to pretend he’s walking in his long-distance lover’s footsteps.I’ve often been sceptical about directors holding Skype auditions – it’s not too far away from “phoning” in a performance. But 10,000 km has shown me the light. Sergi and Alex are able to hold intimate conversations through their computers by eating dinner together, cooking together, and maintaining an endearing warmth that makes it (at first) a pleasure to share their company. Their natural spark is palpable, even when apart, and each actor generates natural enthusiasm for speaking to a glitchy image on a laptop screen.10,000 km forms its own pattern whereby each online chat has a time stamp and alternates in whose side the viewer sits. Alex cooks food for friends in a brightly lit LA flat, while Sergi dissolves into a despondent alcoholic who browses social media in the dark. Jokes about emailing a baby are no longer funny within the context of their relationship 2.0; their separate Venn diagrams reveal different priorities. It’s also devastatingly effective (and affective) to witness both sides, scene by scene, wholly reliant on a broadband connection for emotional security. When they dance together by cradling their laptops, it’s like the sex scene in Her without any shred of deliberate weirdness or humour.Despite a Google Maps chase sequence more riveting than any of the Bourne films, it all boils down to that very first scene. When Alex prepares breakfast in the kitchen, Sergi walks in from the bathroom, still brushing his teeth, just to be physically close to her. As she later says, there’s a difference between wanting to be with someone, and wanting them to be there.’10,000 km’ is playing London Film Festival 2014 as part of the Love strand. Ticket information can be found here.