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Review: Hope and Change in It Snows in Benidorm

Written and directed by Isabel Coixet, It Snows In Benidorm is as unreasonably beautiful in its imperfections as it is refreshing in its film elements, despite the dull and reclined protagonist we are introduced to. This is an exhilarating masterpiece, from the quirky and mysterious characters that populate its woefully dreamy world to the ever-transient scenes at the beach to the unique sectioning of the film into ten types of weather.

“Talking about the weather is a code we’ve developed to help us overcome social inhibitions. But, for me, the weather is a way for me to feel that something is happening. And if there isn’t – there’s always a promise.”

Written and directed by Isabel Coixet, It Snows In Benidorm is as unreasonably beautiful in its imperfections as it is refreshing in its film elements, despite the dull and reclined protagonist we are introduced to. This is an exhilarating masterpiece, from the quirky and mysterious characters that populate its woefully dreamy world to the ever-transient scenes at the beach to the unique sectioning of the film into ten types of weather.

We find ourselves at a typical, cramped corporate desk job for the opening scene. Peter, a stark man well into his late 50s, has dedicated over two decades of his professional life to ‘We Bank’. On this particular occasion, he finds himself dealing with a long-time client, an Indian couple, who haven’t paid their mortgage dues. Peter’s empathy in extending the mortgage deadline is contrasted by his boss’s showcase of logical comments on the inefficiency of Peter’s decision and his overall skillset – with him being abruptly awarded an early retirement the following day.

A citizen of the unambitious cohort, Peter acknowledges in one of his early monologues that his is a spectator’s perspective in a world thriving with participants. The masquerade of secrecy over his passion for meteorology – he didn’t have anyone to ask him about his interests and his indifference to some three decades of a loner’s life fills us with dejected angst. This feeling is momentarily relieved when he rebrands a “We Bank” poster to read as “Wankers” on his way out of the bank. Peter, now empty-scheduled, takes up his brother’s invite to visit him in Benidorm, a colourful seaside town in Spain. We witness a suppressed display of spirit and energy radiating and bouncing off of the cadet blue walls of his one-bedroom apartment as Peter starts preparing for his trip, despite Daniel not picking up his calls. On arrival at his brother’s hotel, we are met with a blonde-haired woman in her late 40s, not unlike any other whimsical, ageing tourist Peter sees on his way through this chatoyant gem of a town. We are, however, hinted at her relevance when she recognises the taxi driver, gets him to return the overcharged fare and drops her home.  We later learn that this was Marta, a local policewoman.

Peter then becomes puzzled when the receptionist tells him that Daniel hasn’t been around for a few days now. The receptionist then leads him to Daniel’s room, nodding patiently as Peter bombards him with questions about his brother’s whereabouts. Peter, exhausted, drifts off to sleep on the teal balcony sofa briefly before awakening to see Alex leaning on the glass railing. Alex, admittedly a better fit for a protagonist, is a tall, striking brown woman with wavy brown hair and a surprisingly tender voice. Alex works as the manager for a club that Daniel owns and had invited herself into Daniel’s room expecting to meet the man himself. Her club’s employees had not yet been paid, and Alex wanted to ensure they were. When she learns of his disappearance, she waves it off, saying he’s done this before. Of course, this doesn’t convince Peter in the slightest.

It follows in part that Peter must visit his brother’s club. Every time we follow Peter through these psychedelic nights in and around the Benidorm Club, it feels like a vivid fever dream. On his first night at the club, we see a heavy Elvis impersonator singing his rendition of ‘In The Ghetto’ for a mesmerised audience of 60 year-olds and then witness Alex, or “Pearl”, pull from her pearl oyster a lengthy chain of glistening white pearls.

The following morning, Peter tries ringing his brother again only to discover that Daniel’s phone had been under his bed. During his visit to the police station, he encounters Marta once again. What follows is perhaps one of the purest yet simultaneously awkward and realistic conversations a movie could ever hope to emulate. Peter’s unfaltering concerns and urges to file a missing complaint are met with clumsy executions of philosophical sayings from his counterpart, attempting to promote concepts of patience and acceptance. When this fails to convince him otherwise, Marta stands down and files a missing complaint.

Excitement and hope grow as the pace picks up, and we see a frantic Peter ringing every single phone number on his brother’s cell, digging through tantamount stacks of paperwork, and ultimately raising the attention of the mafia when he asks about an ‘Esteban Campos’ at a local butcher’s shop.

The morning following another night out with Alex, we’re taken through some curious works of architecture with unwonted choices of colour as Peter makes a transitory stroll through Alex’s neighbourhood. As Peter is kidnapped and brought to the butcher’s shop, things pick up once again. There is no attempt to bring an element of tension to the scene where we finally meet Esteban Campos, the mafia boss who runs the shop. Campos looks much like a less intimidating Marco Pierre White.

Through this conversation and in the following scenes, Isabel Coixet pulls the curtains wide on the plot: Campos and Daniel were business partners. After they miraculously made some returns on their bad investments, Daniel transferred those returns to an offshore account and fled the country. By the time Peter learns of his brother’s whereabouts, the world around him has influenced a feeling of indifference within him. And in an unsurprisingly ordinary finale, after numerous pitiful attempts, Peter wins over Alex.

It Snows in Benidorm effortlessly takes every opportunity to ask some of the most profoundly fundamental questions about the various decisions across one’s life. What it lacks in terms of a definitive focus and pace, it more than makes up for in its exploration of the mundane and the awkward, realistic interactions between its quirky characters.

It Snows in Benidorm is screening at Palace Balwyn Cinema and other select theatres from March 17th.

 
Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Five 2022

EDITION SIX 'RETROFUTURISM' AVAILABLE NOW!

Our last print edition of 2022 is here! This wild, visionary edition is filled with burning nostalgia, glittering hope, and tantalising visions of the future, past, and present.

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