My surname of Delgado originated from Spain. I’ve never been to Granada, but Madrid and Seville are some of my favorite places in the world that I’ve ever visited. The beauty of the architecture is only surpassed by the kind warmth of the people that I encountered.
Writer-director Abid Khan’s feature film debut Granada Nights is a coming of age in your 20s story that is also a love letter to Granada, Spain, and the people who inhabit it. The film follows a British/Pakistani tourist named Ben (Antonio Aakeel) as he arrives in Granada to surprise his girlfriend Helen (Alice Sanders), only to find out that she’s moved on without him. Heartbroken, Ben wanders around the city until he meets a group of college students who help him let loose and enjoy his surroundings.
The only problem is that Ben still pines for his ex-girlfriend the entire time, and his new friends cannot for the life of them understand why. I think it’s an issue for the audience as well because we’re never really shown or told what is so special about Helen. We learn they were together for three years, and Ben is hung up on her and can’t let go, but why? Unexpectedly being dumped sucks, and many of us have been there before, but when you’re in your twenties, you usually move on. There’s a scene where an attractive woman wants to hook up with him six months after the breakup, but he can’t do it. That just doesn’t seem like a realistic response for most men, but it may be understandable if we were able to dig into Ben’s mindset (through flashbacks or dialogue) to see where this intense infatuation is coming from.
I enjoyed the fresh, international cast, even though some of the acting is a bit stiff at times. Antonio Aakeel is relatable as the leading man. Julius Fleischanderl as Oscar, Laura Frederico as Silvia, and Oscar Casas as Lucas all do a fine job of playing Ben’s new party-going friends. But Khan’s script doesn’t focus much time on telling us who these other characters are below the surface because it’s mainly about Ben’s journey of self-discovery amid relationship despair.
“…Ben wanders around the city until he meets a group of college students who help him let loose…”
Granada Nights starts out in a unique 1:1 aspect ratio and then slowly broadens to the more common widescreen as the movie progresses, coinciding with Ben expanding his horizons. The transitional shots of Granada are fantastic, making me wish for even more scenes that feature its architectural refinement or the beauty of the culture. This is shown in a fantastic flamenco dancing scene, which is the backdrop for Ben getting rejected by a different woman because he tells her that she reminds him of his ex.
The true journey of it all is one of self-discovery. This comes into clearer focus during a scene between Ben and a fellow Pakistani named Bilal (Ezra Khan), who offers some bits of wisdom. Ben explains that he feels like he doesn’t fully fit in with either British or Pakistani cultures. It’s like he’s a foreigner everywhere, so Bilal tells him, “Here, we are all foreigners together. Students, tourists, immigrants. Even the Spanish feel foreign in their city full of Moorish architecture… home is not where you are born or the color of your skin. It’s a feeling. It’s a connection, a sense of belonging.”
Abid Khan is Pakistani, so this sounds like some personal insight that he’s learned along the way. I wish that there was more Richard Linklater-esque dialogue like Bilal has in Granada Nights, but overall, it’s a worthwhile journey.
"…Aakeel is relatable as the leading man."