In 1995 Richard Linklater transformed romantic cinema forever. His film, Before Sunrise, showed that romantic films didn’t need huge set pieces, gigantic elaborate sets, amazing scores, or even huge casts. Linklater proved that all you needed was two great actors and some good old-fashioned conversation. This is the kind of conversation we all end up having with our significant others during the falling in love phase of a relationship. Since then, many films have taken the chance with that formula and the results have been mixed. It is hard to trap the same genie in a bottle twice, but there are some good examples that have done just that. This time, The Time It Takes, takes that chance with the story of two people, Lina and Nico, and how their love might not be as strong as it seems.
Does this Netflix miniseries hit the bullseye or miss it completely?
The Time it Takes is a Netflix miniseries starring Nadia de Santiago and Álvaro Cervantes. The miniseries tells the story of Lina, a 32-year-old woman who has been in a nine-year relationship with Nico, her boyfriend. Sadly, they’re breaking up. This sends Lina into remembering certain parts of her relationship as the time gets closer and closer for her to make a decision that could change her life forever.
The setup of a couple breaking up isn’t new at all. It’s the starting point of many other movies, novels and TV shows, but The Time It Takes has its own spin to it. From the moment the movie pushes play on their Netflix interface, they will be met with something that would catch anyone’s attention, the running time. The miniseries is divided into 10 episodes of 10 minutes each (without credits). The show takes the concept even further by beginning with an episode that spends one minute in the present time of the story and nine minutes in the past of the story.
As the story continues, each episode pushes the balance more and more towards the present, until in the last episode we spend nine minutes in the present and only one minute in the past. This type of structure could be taken as a simple gimmick by some, and technically it is, but it works and keeps things from getting stale quickly. The structure alone works so well that it might cloud the fact that the story isn’t something special or something an avid viewer has not experienced countless times before.
The story as such is filled with tender moments that show how these two people fell in love with each other, and at the same time it shows the moments when things started to go bad. The plot flows in continuity and the progression of the relationship is easy to follow, but some moments, both tender and sad, work better than others. Some happy moments, for example, feel very forced, while some sad ones lack context, and the character’s reaction requires a bit more work from the audience to fill in the logic gaps.
Fortunately, the show has two amazing leads who rise even above the weakest moments in the scripts. de Santiago is fabulous as Lina, a young woman who excels at being charming and cute. Her journey from the beginning to the end of the miniseries is quite compelling, and you root easily for her even in her darkest moments. The same goes for Cervantes, who has huge amounts of charisma to work with and comes across as a convincing actor.
However, Cervantes’ character, Nico, has less screen time than Lina and because the main point of view of the show is her, most of the important development moments for his character happen off-screen. By the time the show ends, parts of Nico still remain a mystery, and this might hurt the potency of the ending.
On a technical level, the show goes for minimalism and naturalism. It never works very hard to create complex shots or unique visuals. This angle might create a show that is visually generic, but that also feels in line with the realistic take on love that the show is trying to pull off.
In the end, The Time It Takes is successful in exploring the hardships of forgetting a relationship that you considered special. To forget that a special person doesn’t come easy, and sometimes it is impossible, but it is something we all experience at least at one point in life, making the show universal in its appeal. The short running time of each episode makes it especially easy to binge-watch in one sitting. So, if what you need is a short and bittersweet love story, then The Time It Takes is what you are looking for.