It Snows in Benidorm – Film Review
by Hugh Maguire
Director – Isabel Coixet
Writer – Isabel Coixet
Stars – Timothy Spall, Sarita Choudhury, Carmen Machi
Throughout the 1990s and beyond Hugh Grant became known for essentially playing Hugh Grant in a string of big-hit films, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999) being among the better known. Playing the ever dipsy, slightly bumbling, but ultimately lovable lead he was alarmingly a Boris Johnson avant la lettre. Timothy Spall, less lovable perhaps, seems doomed to be comparably typecast. Whereas Grant was all toothy smiles and tussled hair, Spall seems to specialise in the look of abject constipation, doom-laden and ultimately miserable. He is only in his early 60s and seems to inhabit a character decades older of frail mind and body. This is the role he played in the wearisome The Last Bus (2021) which is now rehashed in the more culturally aspirational It Rains in Benidorm.
Essentially, a loner in rainy-skies Manchester takes himself off to sunny Benidorm and finds the meaning of life. His brother, not seen in a decade, always asking him to come down (to the sun), has done a runner. And Peter (Spall) arrives to an almost threatening environment, where in the process of searching for the brother who appears to have gone missing he comes across a cast of larger-than-life characters – all of unlikely type who ultimately challenge his certainties but who are also lonely and finding new meaning and life in Benidorm.
The key premise is simple and straightforward and things start off promisingly – we are led to anticipate an almost Willy Russell Shirley Valentine, the play (1986) and film (1989), where the warmth of the Mediterranean sun is transformative. Will this be a slap to BREXIT voting Britons – look at our sun for your grey skies. How will this sleepy head cope in the sun? Will it be a case of Carry on Benidorm? Instead, it wallows in going nowhere. Spall’s look of misery gets more miserable, his jowls more jowlish, and the limited cast of characters more outlandish and unbelievable. With a permanent population of 70,000, and who knows how many million tourists, it seems odd that the city, as per this film, seems to have one police officer and one cleaning woman.
There are undoubted aspirations to art-house movies, some stunning settings, and over-regular references to Sylvia Plath (1932-63), a one-time Benidorm resident. Pedro Almodóvar is one of the producers and there is undoubtedly an influence of an almost surreal latter-day Spanish Baroque on Coixet’s handling of the subject. How more gripping and meaningful it would have been had we a Ken Loach treating it in the manner of I, Daniel Blake, a comparably aged loner facing the challenges of the world. Remarkably this film received funding from the local tourist board, they would have been better supporting the over-the-top campiness of the long-running sitcom Benidorm (2007-18). It at least raised a laugh whereas this might make one give up the will to live.