When life writes you a scenario expecting failure, all you can do is try your best, maintain your sense of humor, and make a spectacular exit – not with a whimper, but with a bang!
Director: Carlos Marques-Marcet
Running Time: 99 minutes
Alex (Natalia Tena) accepts a job abroad, and this way puts 10.000 km between herself and her beloved Sergi (David Verdaguer). They are now trying to sustain a five-year-old relationship with the help of a technology that is supposed to keep them connected, and yet is pulling them further and further apart.
With a well acted and well executed 22-minute opening single shot, the film sets its premise, its characters, its mood, and even its conflict: how will these two characters manage to keep a long-distance relationship alive? Is that even possible, or is the relationship doomed right from the start?
While older generations were condemned to a communication via hand-written letters, which often got lost or took forever to reach their destination, these two young characters seem blessed; they live in a contemporary society, where tiny cameras on their computers allow them to look at each other and talk to each other 24 hours a day, if they so wish. But is that enough?
Anyone who’s been in a long-distance relationship knows that technology alone cannot bridge the distance; a relationship cannot be sustained without the every-day contact, the friction, and the physical touch. Most long-distance relationships come with an expiry date, and Carlos Marques-Marcet, the director, appears to know this from personal experience. The film, therefore, could, under different light, be seen not as an exploration of uncertainty, but a reenactment of a relationship’s definite demise; the characters go through the motions of a long-distance relationship, sensing, however, that its fate is predetermined. In this reading of the film the audience are not invited to root for the success of a relationship, but to bear witness to its collapse and, eventually, its funeral.
The film follows the structure of a diary, with all the seemingly mundane, boring, or insignificant moments that a diary might contain. Each diary entry offers us a glimpse into the characters and their struggles. Each glimpse helps us get closer to these two tragic heroes, of sorts, who are torn apart not because of some fault in their characters, but because of a fault in their judgment.
The director films the often comical interactions of Alex and Sergi via Skype with over-the-shoulder shots of their semi-pixelated faces, freezing on ridiculous facial expressions as the connection falters. It comes across as a comment on the ridiculousness of modern interaction – not necessarily facilitated by technology, but mocked by it instead.
As the film progresses, we notice that the camera never drifts outside the walls of their homes. The balconies and the doors are the limits, and the outside world exists only through printed photographs or digital images on a screen. In our technologically connected universes, we become more and more disconnected from the world around us, the director seems to be saying. These characters are confined in their homes, confined inside their virtual relationship, and confined within the borders of their computer screens. The director makes us observe them the way you observe animals in a cage, with compassion and a disinterested curiosity – even though most of us live in similar cages of our own.
Is technology entrapping us instead of liberating us? Disconnecting us instead of connecting us? Can technology keep us together when we are apart? These are some of the director’s concerns, and without pretending to want to communicate much more than that, he manages to approach his theme and his characters with an understanding and compassion that, perhaps, only someone who’s experienced something similar could exhibit.
Realistic, honest, dispassionate, restrained, tender, and funny at times, this is a filmic obituary to all relationships struggling to survive at a distance, underlined by a bittersweet commentary on a technology that fails to connect our spirits when our bodies are apart.