Walking Distance is the debut feature for Mexican director, Alejandro Guzmán Alvarez, with the film focusing on Fede (Luis Ortega), a morbidly obese and socially isolated man. The film runs at a leisurely pace, and the tale is ultimately a simple one. However, standout performances from Ortega and Joel Isaac Figueroa as Fede’s young friend, Paulo, elevate Walking Distance to a work that is both heart-warming and memorable.
Luis Ortega (a well-known drummer in a Mexican rock band) does a great job in conveying the physical stresses of his character. His laborious breathing mimics his slow lumbering movements, and he’s always sweating. At the beginning of the film, we see that Fede’s only visitors are his overbearing sister, Rosaura, and her husband, the supportive and quirky Ramon (Mauricio Isaac). Ramon encourages Fede to take up photography, which leads to Fede meeting Paulo, a young man obsessed with comics who works at a photography store. Fede, Paulo and Ramon end up bonding over the course of the film, and from there, it re-treads familiar oddball comedy tropes.
Walking Distance is indicative of the pace of the film, as it is a slow burn. Very little happens in the first hour, and the majority of the film takes place in Fede’s run-down house. Rarely does the film get bogged down in self-pity or melodrama. There are a few times where darker aspects concerning Fede’s backstory are explored, but they are largely left to the audience’s imagination. It may be that these questions are deliberately left unanswered as the audience’s empathy with Fede relies on his childlike innocence and fragile ego. The moments where Fede and Ramon joke about the controlling Rosaura are some of the funniest moments in the film. There is humour to be found here, and importantly, very little, if any of it, thankfully, comes from Fede’s weight.
Alejandro Guzmán Alvarez should be lauded for such a strong debut effort, as Walking Distance is a charming film that is full of heart. Fantastic performances from the cast, top-notch cinematography, and a nice score from Ortega himself ensure that Walking Distance will leave you with a smile as its final credits roll.