10×10 is a chilly chamber piece that has decent production value, but writing and character development issues that prevent the film from being anything fresh or new. This is director Suzi Ewings’ first feature-length film; she has previously written and directed several short films.
The story begins with Lewis (Luke Evans) stalking Cathy (Kelly Reilly) from a restaurant near her flower shop, Cathy’s Blooms. Cathy drives to a yoga class, singing along to Christian music in her car. Lewis follows her to the class, then quietly abducts her from a parking lot in broad daylight. He drives her to his house, where he has prepared a 10 foot by 10 foot room for Cathy while he torments her with a single question: What is her real name?
Lewis tells Cathy that her room is surrounded on all sides by 4 feet of solid noise blocking material. There is a vent in Cathy’s padded cell, but that is also soundproof, and Lewis lives in a remote area. Parallel story arcs of kidnapper and kidnapped increase the tension. Stuck in her cell alone, Cathy writhes on the floor, screams, struggles with her restraints, and of course tries to escape, convincingly hitting the expected stages of frustration and fear. Meanwhile, Lewis cleans up evidence of the crime, cooks a meal, yearningly watches high-def home videos of his wife and child, and of course, pops in to check on his victim periodically.
It’s hard to discover any qualities about Cathy except what Lewis tells us. At one point Lewis calls Cathy a “good church girl,” and that just about sums her up. Lewis can be summed up as “bad guy who loves his family.” Both have understandable motives that are inoffensive and dull.
10×10 takes place primarily in Lewis’ state-of-the-art house. The setting of a chamber piece is imperative to learning about the owner’s idiosyncrasies—are they messy or neat? Are they wealthy, private, obsessive? Are they clinging onto old furniture, are there toys or books or pictures that tell us about them? The house is very beautiful, but there is little to be learned about Lewis from the minimalist staging. There is a definitive feeling of sterility which deepens the disconnect between the audience and Lewis.
While the fight choreography is edited nicely, there are a few moments where brawls appear staged because the person being attacked just…doesn’t fight back. Cathy has several moments where she clearly could have overtaken or even killed her captor in her attempts to break out. She owes Lewis nothing, after all, she doesn’t know him. But in one instance when she escapes her cell, instead of trying to run away when she has the chance, she joins Lewis at the dinner table. It’s quickly made clear that this will be yet another “getting to know you” scene: “I guess you’re trying to figure me out, right?” Lewis growls as he eats.
Because this is a chamber piece, the rules dictate that Cathy is required to stay in the house. It’s frustratingly transparent to watch Cathy escape her cell—again—and take her time digging through a bag for a cell phone while Lewis rapidly catches up to her. It’s the kind of scene that makes you want to yell at the screen, “Use your common sense and survival skills! Just take the bag and run, get out of there!”
Speaking of not wanting to escape, we learn a little more about the pair each time Lewis interrogates Cathy. These scenes are an effective means of conveying background information. But after a half dozen entrances over only a few hours, the sight of Lewis bursting into Cathy’s room is so repetitious that it becomes comical.
This leads to the segment of the movie that is somehow both my most and least favorite part. The pair finally have that crucial heart to heart about why Cathy has been kidnapped—and it’s amazing! Revealed over several minutes is a crazy, riveting story about Cathy’s formative years with a religious upbringing, a rough family history, and the fateful situations that led her to Lewis. It’s such juicy gossip after knowing the characters only on a surface level for a large part of the movie. But the classical shot/countershot editing style paired with the gray walls of the cell can’t conjure up the imagery of the story we’re being told—that is the story I wanted to see! Just being told a fantastic tale from a cold locked room does not necessarily make for good entertainment. The absurd story they tell is way more interesting than anything that actually happens in the film.
10×10 is available on Hulu. Watch it if you have the patience to wait for the insane reveals deep into the film, or if you want to daydream about living in Lewis’ gorgeous house (I sure did). Just don’t watch 10×10 expecting more than an average, slick, color-by-numbers kidnapping story.