It's a hot, steamy summer day in August in the heart of Madrid - kilometer zero in Puerta del Sol. Fourteen people, from all walks of Spanish life, arrive at the center of the city and, without knowing it, are about to have their lives change in unexpected ways in "Km.0."
A bored, well-off housewife arranges to meet a handsome gigolo. An aspiring young director sets up an interview with an actress. A hooker makes plans to check out a new John. A gay guy arrives for a tryst with another. A young couple prepare for their pending marriage. The gigolo's brother comes to the zero point to make his own meeting. These disparate people will soon have their meetings but none are going to be what was planned.
"Km.0" is an incredibly complex effort by co-directors/writers Juan Luis Iborra and Yolanda Garcia Serrano as the helmers move their huge ensemble cast around the center of Madrid. While the film, initially, looks low budget, the story and the actors help to make this a richly told, old-fashioned drawing room kind of tale. In rapid manner, the various meetings are set up between each of the characters as they make their plans to rendezvous at Madrid's famous gathering point (kilometer zero) from where all distances in Spain are measured. Things even seem to start as planned when the older woman, Marga (Concha Velasco), meets her gigolo, Miguel (Jesus Cabrero). But, the others will soon find the best-laid plans often go awry - and here, to some amusing results.
The cast does a fine job of giving each character a unique personality, from the naïve enthusiasm of the young director (Carlos Fuentes), to the cynical loneliness of the prostitute (Elisa Matilla) and the power struggle between the actress (Merce Pons) and a veteran filmmaker (George Corraface) she tries to coerce into giving her a job. The rest of the performers give credible performances, too, though there are so many things going on that a scorecard to keep track would be a big help at times. There is even a guardian angel in the midst of this large and lively crew.
"Km.0" turns out to be a little gem of a movie that belies its low budget and delivers a complex, funny story of coincidence and crossing lives that has the same effect as an unexpectedly good meal. And, this one has 14 courses. I give it a B.
On a day that's 115 degrees in the shade, five couples agree to meet in Madrid. Marga (Concha Velasco) nervously calls an escort, Miguel (Jesús Cabrero). Silvia (Mercé Pons) is meeting a young director, Pedro (Carlos Fuentes), from out of town. Dancer Bruno (Victor Ullate, Jr.) makes an Internet date with Maximo (Armando del Río, "Jamón, Jamón) while a nervous clerk calls hooker Tatiana (Elisa Matilla). Only one of these couples will meet their intended at "Kilometer Zero."
Writer/directors Yolanda García Serrano and Juan Luis Iborra guide a large cast to delightful performances where every character leaves his or her mark. While low budget constraints are suggested by the mostly tight interior locations, leaving the viewer no more familiar with Madrid at the end of the film than the beginning, one is still propelled into a world of ever hopeful humanity looking for love or at least a big break.
Marga succeeds in finding her gigolo, but she finds something on his person that would suggest he may be more known to her than she would like, sending her to a neighborhood bar to receive advice from bartender Mario (Tristan Ulloa, "Sex and Lucia"). Mario's fiancée Amor (Silke) is out and about making final wedding preparations, but is robbed three times in one day, leading her to a rather explosive meeting with a passionate police officer (Roberto Álamo). Good thing her sister Roma (Cora Tiedra, "Savages"), who works with Mario, seems to have more than future sister-in-lawly affection for him. Young director Pedro is swooped up by Tatiana, thinking he's her john, and, in the film's most delightful relationship, form a type of "My Fair Lady/Pretty Woman" bond. Pedro's actress Silvia spies famous musical director Gerardo (Georges Corraface, "Escape From LA") and leaps in front of his car to get an audition, which she ends up delivering in Mario's bar to great applause. Maximo finds Tatiana's john and becomes the shy clerk's oddball guardian angel while Bruno hooks up with Miguel's romantic roommate Benjamín (Miguel García) who happens to wander into the meeting place at the right time.
This type of romantic roundelay has certainly been done before, but "Km.0" is so spirited and its characters all so worth investing in that it is a delightful picture from start to finish. The writing/directing team have cooked up a story that has equal measures of humor and poignancy, enlivened by frank sexiness that crosses genders and generations. Elisa Matilla plays the type of good natured, low rent hooker that cinema has given us before in films like "Never on Sunday" or "Nights of Cabiria." Matilla is practical, and where we hope for romance for her, her own desires are met by hiking up her asking fee (and, therefore, her esteem) and she charms us when she gets her wish. Fuentes is like a young, unformed Antonio Banderas with his puppy dog appeal and unusual outlet for social reforms. Mercé Pons struts her stuff with a Juliet death scene that makes people weep followed by a show stopping Spanish rendition of Cabaret's "Maybe This Time." Armando del Río is hilarious as the gay man who guides the virginal clerk into the ways of love. Velasco and Ulloa provide an audience and commentary to the proceedings as everyone finds their way to Mario's bar.
"Km.0" ties all its crazy strands together as mistaken identities are uncovered and everyone ends up somewhere to the left of where they had intended, proving that when things don't work out as planned, there really may be silver linings after all.
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