If, like me, you’re stuck on Plague Island and are looking for a little exotic escapism, then Abid Khan‘s directorial debut Granada Night may just be the (plane) ticket…
Antonio Aakeel stars as Ben, a British-Pakistani lad who has landed in Granada in the hopes of winning back (ex – though he’s yet to find this out) girlfriend, Helen (Alice Sanders). Ben is very ‘anti’ travelling, hence why Helen upped and left for Spain, leaving Ben in dreary Blighty.
When he discovers that Helen has moved on, he’s stuck. Having packed in his job back home, spending his savings on his one-way ticket, what’s he to do now? With the encouragement of backpacker Amelia (Quintessa Swindell) he decides to stay, and on a night out befriends a group of Erasmus students.
Struggling to get over Helen, Ben’s new friends teach him to let go by partying, drinking, staying up late, and getting under other girls. Soon he’s found himself a job, a place to stay and more new friends – and he’s started to forget about Helen. But how long will it last?
Co-starring Óscar Casas, Laura Fredrico, Julius Fleischanderl and Virgile Bramly, Granada Nights is a sweet coming-of-age story directed by Abid Khan. This is Khan’s first time taking the reigns on a feature-length film, having previously worked on shorts Bardo and Say Something.
I went into this one blind, not having watched the trailer or read the snyopsis, and I’m sure if I had done I would’ve guessed exactly where the story was going. Nothing really ‘happens’, sadly – mopey young adult ‘finds himself’ in Spain. Khan tries to bring in stories from Ben’s group of pals (drink and drug issues, failing school grades, a possible sexuality crisis) but these are so lightly touched upon they might as well not have been mentioned at all. And Amelia? She lands in Ben’s life in the opening few minutes only to disappear just as quickly. I understand she represents the hippy, born-to-be-free traveller, but when it comes to a film narrative I would’ve thought it’d make sense for the pair to be reintroduced further along.
With a cast of upcoming actors, it’s always difficult to say if this is Academy Award worthy. Each of the characters has their own charm, but everything just felt very forced and wooden, unfortunately. Aakeel as Ben was a great casting choice, but his performance just felt a lacklustre; when Helen ends things over the phone, he’s a little angry…and that’s it. No tears, no real rage, just whimpering down the phone, only to sulk instead. As he gets more comfortable in the role and Ben starts to explore more of Granada I started to warm to him, but that took most of the 90 minute run-time.
What I will give Granada Nights is its cinematography and world-building. After 18 months at home, not having left the country since February 2020 (and that was to a cold and rainy Dublin), it was refreshing to watch scenes of Spaniards going about their daily lives, of village squares bustling with people, of tourists enjoying the view. It made me feel warm, relaxed and nostalgic for another, simpler time!
Overall, Granada Nights is a nice watch if you’re looking for something sunny, just don’t expect too much from the story.