Written and directed by Isabel Coixet, bank worker Peter lives a grey life in Manchester dealing with late repayments and posting daily about the weather. After an unexpected early retirement, he decides to visit his brother in Benidorm only to discover that he has disappeared. Starring: Timothy Spall, Sarita Choudhury, Carmen Machi, Pedro Casablanc, Ana Torrent, Édgar Vittorino and Leonardo Ortizgris.
Heading into It Snows in Benidorm it feels like one of those films that hands you what it’s going to be, neatly fitting a typical drama of rediscovering a passion for life in later years and yet it evolves into much more. After the usual set-up, it moves into some unusual territory, there’s a growing offbeat tone which is unexpected and has a varying success. It had the option to go down the mystery, crime and sex route but held back, which makes sense given that it feels geared towards an older audience but it’s less satisfying. Resulting in a fairly meandering story with a few weird detours thrown in. There’s also the surprising factor that despite its protagonist’s obsession with weather and the use of it to chapter the film, it doesn’t have a part to play in the story, ending up just an extraneous detail or metaphor. The same goes for the ending, it’s fairly lacklustre and missing a definitive accent to end the story, although stick around for the credits as it does fix that a touch.
It’s no surprise at all that this was produced by the legendary Pedro Almodóvar because you can feel his influence in Isabel Coixet’s use of angles, architecture and colour. Coixet’s style feels like it’s the one element of the film which truly embraces the oddity and it was just calling out for the story to push further to back it up. There’s a great depth and variety to it, especially in the way that it uses the landscape of Benidorm. It holds an energy with a lot of potential but there’s nowhere for it to go, it can’t fully lean into the comedy, drama or mystery because none of them are taking the lead.
However, one element which will never disappoint is when you cast such fantastic actors as Timothy Spall and Sarita Choudhury. Choudhury presents such an intriguing and charmingly blunt personality, seeing the naivety in Spall’s Peter and trying to open his eyes. It’s full of confidence, sensuality and the attitude of a woman who’s had to fight for what she has against men who don’t have to try. Spall captures that overtly kind and generous persona with ease, he’s sweet and trusting and just capable enough to not enter sappy or pathetic territory. He’s an actor who’s always enjoyable to watch and being paired with Choudhury who’s an underappreciated legend in her own right, they create a strong and captivating presence.
It Snows in Benidorm is odd and knows it but doesn’t embrace it enough to make it work. What feels like it should be a spiralling adventure of strange and wild experiences, plays it too tame. Timothy Spall and Sarita Choudhury are wonderful as always and make a superb pairing, especially with Choudhury’s fierce charm. The direction is strong and atmospheric, with a great use of colour and framing. There’s a huge amount of potential, the story just holds back too much to do it justice, when it could have been a memorable and beautifully strange adventure.