At the beginning of 10,000 km, Alex (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) have sex, express their mutual hope that said coitus will result in a baby, and then go about their morning routine in their Barcelona apartment. All of this occurs over the course of an unbroken, 20-something-minute take. It emphasizes the couple’s intimacy, suggesting their oneness even when they’re in different rooms. But the shot continues. Alex receives an email informing her that she’s won a year-long photography residency in Los Angeles, and the tone suddenly shifts.
That opening demonstrates a sophisticated sense of space on the part of director Carlos Marques-Marcet. The movie ends with a rejoinder scene in which Alex and Sergi are physically reunited for the first time since the opening, having communicated solely over phones and laptop screens for the hour of running time in between. Marques-Marcet delicately demonstrates the estrangement that’s since developed between the two, isolating each of them in one-shots even as they sit right next to one another on a couch.
Despite Sergi and Alex’s mutual vow that their separation will change nothing, this is an indie drama. These two are doomed. That sense of inevitability comes more from knowing genre convention than it does from anything about the actual characters, although both actors try their best to flesh out their weak material. Alex and Sergi are defined more by their relationship to one another than by any notable personal qualities. An attempt to make them archetypical instead reduces them to morose ciphers. Relatability comes from characters feeling like human beings—emptying them out doesn’t mean a viewer will slot themselves into their place. Via nuance-free dialogue, we are told these two are in love, told they’re trying to have a baby, and told how much they miss one another. There are few tangible expressions of any of this. Marques-Marcet and Clara Roquet’s script is miles (or, ahem, kilometers) behind his direction.
Much of 10,000 km is an effective desktop film, in the vein of Noah (the 2013 short) or this year’s Unfriended. Through social media and Google Maps, it’s able to open up beyond the mere two apartments in which it was filmed. Many shots take the point of view of Alex and Sergi’s Skype sessions. The Internet can collapse the mental gulf between individuals, but the movie suggests that physical separation can still be too much for a relationship to take, even in spite of great love. It’d make this point better if there was a clearer sense of just who these people are. Ironically, the audience ultimately feels more alienated from these lovers than they do from one another.