SIFF ’19 Review: A Modern Romance Comes to Term in Carlos Marques-Marcet’s “The Days to Come”

In the opening moments of Carlos Marques-Marcet’s debut feature “10,000 KM” in 2014, it felt as if the writer/director had unlocked the modern romance, with a 25-minute unbroken take that now seems like the most dated thing about it, coming at a time when it was all the rage. For Marques-Marcet, it wasn’t to impress, but have real purpose in presenting a seemingly unmediated look at a couple that would soon be divided across continents, witnessing how good they could be together before breaking them apart into Skype conversations and online chats. The technological angle inevitably made the film feel uncommonly timely, yet it was the central idea of “10,000 KM” that he’s now carried across three films – “Anchor and Hope” and now “The Days to Come” – that makes it truly fresh, defining love less as acts of unbridled affection than compassion with an understanding that people exist on different timelines from one another.

While distance was an obstacle in “10,000 KM” and sex was in “Anchor and Hope,” where a lesbian couple recruited a male friend to help conceive, it is what the future holds that frustrates Lluis (David Verdaguer) and Vir (Maria Rodriguez Soto) as they await the results of a pregnancy test. Both appear ambivalent about the prospect of bringing a child into the world, but when the blue line confirms it’s coming, they’re overwhelmed by the wave of emotions that follow from elation to confusion to fear, naturally filmed with the unflinching, bracing intimacy that has become a signature of Marques-Marcet’s work. Yet these feelings aren’t shared between the couple, or at least not aligning, as Vir can’t see herself as a mother just yet, worrying she has trouble keeping a hold of her keys let alone a baby, while Lluis, who is far more excited about the possibility, can’t be too enthused about the changes he’ll have to make in his life to be a model father, hastily arranging a meeting with his uncle for more stable employment, but they reassure each other even when it may not be the best thing to do because it seems like the right thing to do in the moment until they start resenting themselves for it.

Verdaguer and Soto are a real-life couple, and “The Days to Come” is said to be an additional unexpected conception from the pair finding out they would be parents, giving the film an undeniable credibility and dramatic heft that it never feels Marques-Marcet, collaborating once more with “10,000 KM” co-writer Clara Roquet and Coral Cruz, has to work for. With the benefit of a growing belly to mark time over the course of nine months to slip in and out of for scenes, intercut with a VHS tape given to Vir of the months leading up to her own birth, Lluis and Vir can be seen increasingly out of sync with each other and as you begin to know them individually rather than as a pair, they become emblematic of a larger cultural conflict in which Lluis can’t help but strive towards becoming the primary breadwinner of their home, knowing of no way else to be supportive, while the sacrifices he could make that would please Vir, who’s had to put her ambitions as a journalist on hold while she’s pregnant, don’t even occur to him.

Ironically, Verdaguer may have been asked to play the well-meaning fool in all three of Marques-Marcet’s films in which his character’s maturity has always come into question, but the actor’s deeply vulnerable, open-hearted performances have provided a solid foundation for the director to make relationship dramas that crackle with their candor, separating themselves in taking great pains to not favor a single perspective and considering how traditional gender roles have created expectations that the characters find stifling. Rodriguez Soto defies categorization with her blistering turn as Vir, channeling a restlessness that can be read as concern that her life has been planned out for her once she gives birth or the curiosity that accompanies the changes she adjusts to as she carries a child to term. Her emotions are so vividly conveyed, you realize she isn’t the only one bringing life into the world in “The Days to Come,” a tender, moving experience that evokes the same panoply of feelings that its characters feel.

“The Days to Come” does not yet have U.S. distribution. It will next open in Spain on June 21st.