Spanish film “10,000 km” is about one relationship put under a difficult situation. They believe they can love each other enough for sacrifice and compromise demanded to them, but they only come to realize that their relationship is not as strong as they thought. They can talk with each other if they want, but they are always reminded of the long distance between them as looking at each other’s face in laptop monitor. Wholly limiting itself within the boundaries of their relationship, the movie works as a dense drama with interesting points on human relationship and online communication. We surely become more accessible to each other thanks to our advancing digital era, but does it really make us close to each other? And can love and affection be really sustained by online communication despite physical separation?
In the opening scene entirely consisting of an impressive long take fluidly handled for more than 20 minutes, we gather bits of background information about Alex (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) as they slowly begin another day after enjoying an early morning sex in the bedroom of their cozy flat in Barcelona. Living with each other for 7 years, they are pretty accustomed to each other’s presence, and they may move onto the next step of their relationship through having their child – and marriage, perhaps.
While Sergi works as a school teacher, Alex, a British woman who moved to Barcelona probably because of her relationship with Sergi, has been waiting for any good opportunity to advance her photographer career, and she finally gets a good news when she checks her e-mails as usual during this morning. A university offers her a job for some art project, and she will move to LA and live there for a year if she accepts the offer.
But there is one problem. Sergi cannot go with her because he is preparing for his appointment examination (he is not a full-time teacher yet), and that means she will have to go alone to LA while he will stay in Barcelona. Sergi is naturally not so pleased about that, and we see how they push and pull each other during their breakfast. He becomes sullen and disgruntled because she did not tell him anything about this before. She tries to placate him as he is about to walk out from the table. He relents a little, and then he eventually tells her that she should go to LA. As the camera keeps focusing on them in its seamless movement, the quiet but dynamic interaction between them feels palpable during this superlative long take scene, which would have no problem with being presented alone as a short film.
After Alex leaves for LA, the rest of the movie mostly focuses on how they try to stay in touch with each other through online communication. Living in a small but comfortable apartment alone, Alex shows him her new environment through the photos from Google Map, and Sergi coaches her cooking via Skype when she prepares a dinner for several colleagues she invites. At one point, they go into a naughty mode just for reminding that they are still a couple despite their changed circumstance.
We also see the strains in their relationship, which become more apparent day by day. Mainly because of time zone difference, their online correspondence becomes more burdensome to both of them. They are occupied more with each own business, and they accordingly feel more distant from each other. Sergi becomes moody and grouchy when he does not do well in his appointment examination, but all Alex can do for him is telling how sorry she feels about that. They gradually begin to have doubts on whether they can continue their relationship, and that is usually the point when couples begin to see more of the imperfections in their relationship.
While virtually having his film confined within two small separate indoor spaces, the director Carlos Marques-Marcet, who wrote the screenplay with his co-writer Clara Roquet, makes an interesting choice in his storytelling. We never see other characters besides Alex and Sergi, and the movie usually shows them communicating with each other using their laptops.
This austere approach could be tedious and lackadaisical in wrong hands, but Marques-Marcet and Roquet establish well their two characters right from the opening scene. Sergi and Alex are plain but distinctive characters to watch for their different personalities as well as the gradual changes in their relationship, and their online conversation scenes feel authentic and spontaneous along with small details and nuances to observe. There also are a number of clever scenes unfolded within their laptop monitors as they click or type, and I like one particularly moment when the movie switches from high-quality digital camera to low-quality webcam to signal the change in the mood during one of the crucial scenes in the film.
As the emotional center of the movie, Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer, who also provided additional dialogues for the film, are superb in their sensitive nuanced performances (Tena is probably more recognizable to you considering her recent appearances in late Harry Potter films and TV series “Game of Thrones”). Complementing well each other even when they are not together on the screen, Tena and Verdaguer did a commendable job of conveying the emotional bond between their characters, and they are especially good during one poignant scene accompanied with Alex and Sergi’s favorite song. Despite all the anger and frustration accumulated between them, Alex and Sergi see each other’s need to feel good and romantic again as before, and their faces are brightened for a while as they are swept along with their music.
Like many other couples, they eventually find that they must handle what has been changed in their relationship in one way or another, and the final scene of “10,000 km” leaves an ambiguous note as nothing is certain to both of them. They may make more compromise and sacrifice later, but are they willing to do for their love? They will soon see, regardless of whatever will happen next.