‘The Days to Come’ (‘Els Dies que Vindran’): Film Review

Carlos Marques-Marcet’s third feature ‘The Days to Come’, a borderline documentary that X-rays the emotional journey of a young pregnant couple, took three of the top awards at the recent Malaga festival.

During the shooting of Carlos Marques-Marcet’s last film Anchor and Hope, the actor David Verdaguer and his girlfriend Maria Rodriguez Soto became pregnant. Marques-Marcet seized the opportunity to film The Days to Come, an intimate, naturalistic X-ray of the damage that pregnancy can do to a relationship. Films often either simply celebrate having babies or glide over the messiness it involves, but Days, whose shoot was presumably an emotional roller-coaster ride for all concerned, does neither, tackling the complex mess of emotions at the heart of the situation with great delicacy and extreme compassion.

The result is an involving item with an attractively grungy homemade feel that, given its status between fact and fiction, rings true from first frame to last. It is this quality that presumably led to its winning three awards at Spain’s recent Malaga fest, with further festival screenings likely for viewers who like their romances rooted in the real.

The Bottom Line

When romance gets real.

In Marques-Marcet’s first two films, external complicating factors were brought to bear on the relationships: In 10,000KM, the couple lived in different countries, while in the English-language Hope the characters were living in London, in some cases using a language not their own. Days strips out these complicating factors, allowing Marques-Marcet to achieve a new tightness of focus, while the circumstances of its shooting bring it to a level of intimacy and naturalness that will be hard for the director to replicate.

Days opens with 30-ish Vir (Maria Rodriguez Soto) watching old home movie footage of herself as a child: We will return to this footage time and time again as Vir thoughtfully contemplates it, struggling to understand how people become what they are. When they learn that she is pregnant, the reaction of her partner Lluis (David Verdaguer, best known to foreign viewers for Carla Simon’s Summer 1993) to the news is so spontaneous and true that you’d think that Soto and Verdaguer were a real couple — which of course they are.

Standing for a generation to whom financial considerations are a brake on having kids, they’re financially insecure with precarious jobs (Vir will lose hers, no questions asked). After the initial joy and tears, real-life considerations kick in, with Lluis doubting whether they’re able to have the baby — “I don’t not want it,” is how he puts it — and ending up, to Vir’s disgust, going cap in hand for a job at his wealthy uncle’s law firm, something he’s vowed he’ll never do.

Days is about how pregnancy changes relationships, and also the people inside those relationships, about how the event that should be the pinnacle of a partnership can paradoxically often contain the seeds of its destruction. There’s not much that’s new about any of this, or about the handheld camera or the low-lit interiors. What’s closer to new is its sheer authenticity, beautifully captured by Alex Garcia’s ever-vigilant camera. Vir and Lluis start to argue more, their debates becoming increasingly intense and public — arguing at the grocers, for example, about the best education for their child — and leading to longer and longer silences. “Don’t worry,” the viewer wants to reassure them, as you would a friend. “We’ve all been there. Keep going.”

Even someone unaware that they’re watching a real-life couple drawing on their own experience of encroaching parenthood, practically in real time, would start to suspect it. Rodriguez Soto in particular — this is Vir’s story more than Lluis’s — delivers a performance of supercharged, life-or death intensity that seems to be underpinned by her knowledge that in a very real sense she has a rare opportunity to commit to camera the most important event in her life. “You get pregnant,” she reflects, “and suddenly you’re not alone” — a seemingly throwaway line whose effects ripple far into the relationship, and end up threatening it. All it takes is a simple image of Vir sitting exhausted and alone on a sofa for the viewer to really care about and be concerned for her.

That’s not to say that the actors allow their feelings simply to run away with them. Both the performance aspect and the need to follow a script keep things in check, so that what we’re watching is a strange and special blend of the fictional and the real — a film that’s neither quite documentary nor quite fiction, and all the more intense because of that.

It has, of course, all been building up to the birth, and when it comes, the barrier between fiction and reality breaks down into moments of authentic catharsis, with Rodriguez Soto presumably way past caring about anything as trivial as just acting. This is real, and at this point The Days to Come is suddenly, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

Production companies: Lastor Media, Avalon
Cast: Maria Rodriguez Soto, David Verdaguer
Director: Carlos Marques-Marcet
Screenwriters: Clara Roquet, Coral Cruz, Carlos Marques-Marcet
Producers: Sergi Moreno, María Zamora, Tono Folguera, Stefan Schmitz
Director of photography: Alex Garcia
Art Director: Anna Pons-Formosa
Costume designer: Vinyet Escobar
Editors: Oscar de Gispert Zegrí, Ana Pfaff, Carlos Marques-Marcet
Sales: Film Factory Entertainment

97 minutes