The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - GRANADA NIGHTS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - GRANADA NIGHTS

granada nights review
A young Brit finds himself alone in Spain following a painful breakup.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Abid Khan

Starring: Antonio Aakeel, Quintessa Swindell, Óscar Casas, Virgile Bramly, Tábata Cerezo, Laura Frederico, Alice Sanders

granada nights poster

Of all the conversations to be trapped in, a person bemoaning the end of their relationship is up there with someone boring on to you about their holiday. I mean, what are you meant to say? Having not been in situ, there is nothing meaningful you can possibly add and so instead end up only half listening as the tediously subjective coals are raked over and over, perhaps throwing in a sad nod or raised eyebrow every so often depending on context. I wonder which, though, is the most tedious of these conversational sufferances? As if in answer to this existential query, cinematic sadist Abid Khan has united both propositions in his debut feature Granada Nights, which centres on millennial Londoner Ben (Antonio Aakeel) travelling to Spain in order to rekindle his relationship with Helen, an English woman studying at the Universidad de Granada.

granada nights review

Of course, not long after arriving in the city, it transpires that Helen has given Ben the Spanish fiddle. It’s no spoiler to reveal that Belen were doomed: aside from the fact that they are both in the capricious flush of youth, Ben is needy, clingy and the sort of passive aggressive nutjob who springs a surprise visit on his girlfriend because he’s unable to read between the lines (explaining to Helen that he came to Spain because she was ‘crying’ on the phone - she clarifies that was because she was breaking up with him). What’s a well healed boy with a noxious sense of entitlement to do? Hang around Granada until Helen sees sense, halts whatever adventures she’s having, and falls back in love with our lovelorn hero, that’s what. I mean, how dare she not?

We are positioned to receive Ben as our hero, meant to sympathise with him, as if he has some sort of divine right to Helen. Meant to be narratively satisfied when his time in Granada with other trustafarians loafing about leads to some sort of mystical epiphany, as if Andalucía and its denizens exist to assist the spiritual wellbeing of rich kids (Ben scoffs at the €300 rent for his apartment as it is ‘nothing’ compared to the London prices he’s used to paying: alright, Lord Snooty!).

granada nights review

Ben soon falls in with other Europeans, and spends his evenings getting pissed and nausing up various would-be romantic encounters by banging on about Helen. It’s a bit like a more PG-13ish version of the first act of Hostel when those awful lads are lording it up in Amsterdam, but unfortunately none of the conceited characters here end up being tortured to death. Instead, they dip in and out of bars and receive cookie cutter wisdom from such noble savages as an ‘old gypsy’ (their words) with a guitar, and a polyglot barman who has chucked in his erudition in order to pester the young female clients of his hostelry. Ben cannot even be fucked to turn up on time for the Spanish language class in which he whimsically enrols: what a character! (He signs up because another character tells him that on the Costa Del Sol they don’t speak English, but nearly everyone in the film does speak English, even the fella knocking about selling roses to tourists).

There are moments in Granada Nights where wider ideas than Ben’s self-involvement are touched upon, but these are sadly squandered. Ezra Khan plays the wise street florist, who talks about Pakistani identity, and the impossibility of changing how people choose to perceive others (‘You look like Pakistani, you stay Pakistani’). However, in the manner of a tourist checking off a to-see list, once his turn is done, he’s forgotten about when Ben skips to the next escapade: tipping up at a party and immediately attempting to chat up a woman. There is much talk about how amazing this lifestyle is, as if the characters are trying to convince us. But there is no real hedonism here: no drugs, no sexual experimentation. There is no real sense that Ben is entranced by the city’s character, either (‘it has an energy’ is the best he can muster when asked).

granada nights review

[Spoiler] At the end of the film the ubiquitously mentioned Helen re-appears and the pair share a taxi back from yet another party. Via a tearful confession, which is the stuff of toxic male fantasy, it turns out that she wants to get back with Ben. This is a different Ben though, a man who has been irrevocably altered by a few weeks of bumming around pubs and chatting to German exchange students. He has found himself. Ben hurriedly exits the cab, slamming the door on Helen; preferring instead to run up some steps in fey homage to Rocky in order to watch the sunrise from the top of a building with his mates. That’ll teach her! The hours spent being knocked back in bars, the acquirement of casual Spanish, the distance travelled uprooting to Andalucía: it was all worth it! Let’s hope that Ben’s subsequent relationships all go accordingly though, if only for the sake of his carbon footprint.

Granada Nights is in UK cinemas from May 28th.

2021 movie reviews