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Under Spanish Skies


‘…the well-acted and carefully conceived Under Spanish Skies does a sensitive job of peeling back the despair behind the surface glamour of ex-pats in a foreign land…’

Literate, adult content is never plentiful in streaming or cinema; it’s something of a bonus to find that Nathan Buck’s handsome, sultry, yet deadly serious film ticks both boxes. Buck names Thomas Vinterberg amongst the film-makers he admires, and those who know Festen either as a film or a stage play will recognise the basic structure here; a supposedly celebratory gathering takes a dark turn when one of the participants makes a surprise announcement; in Festen, it’s an accusation of abuse, but in Under Spanish Skies, it’s the revelation of Leah’s intention to go ahead with her part of a suicide pact…

Artist and widow Leah (Tara Lynn Orr) has just lost her husband; she invites two of her oldest friends, Beth (Tullan Holmqvist) and Gregory (Philippe Brenninkmeyer) to drive over and join her at the Andalusian farm that her late husband built for her. Leah announces an unexpected intention; without her husband around, she wants to end her own life in Marrakesh, putting Beth and Gregory in a tricky position; do they support their friend, even when what she wants will mean the end of their friendship and her own life? Also arriving on the scene is Alix (Nahéma Ricci), a young lesbian with relationship problems and consequent abandonment issues who is seeking the support of her environmentally -friendly uncle (Amr Waked) who tends to the farm for Leah as caretaker; Alix’s own unexpected suicide bid in the outdoor pool puts additional strain on the fragile relationships here…

Under Spanish Skies might evoke memories of Laurence Kasdan’s The Big Chill as it sets out a weekend of small-talk that eventually gives way to painful self-revelation, conflict and tough decisions with immediate ramifications; as in Kasdan’s film, it’s the re-framing of the legacy of a deceased character that proves central to the development of the narrative. ‘It’s easy to be a purist when you don’t have kids,’ captures a little from the caustic commentary on display; ‘That is the problem; we are all in our own world, eight billion greedy bastards.’ But despite the bereavement theme and forboding literary references to the ‘assembly of the death’, Under Spanish Skies isn’t maudlin or morbid; it’s a drama about how we live, and die, and how we pivot from one decision to another with increasing awareness of the consequences of our actions.

From Beth and Gregory’s first, abrupt meeting with Alix on the road to Leah’s villa, it’s clear that Buck is firmly keyed into the emotions of his characters. The sweet poison of death is one way out from an existentialist dilemma, but is checking-out just a coward’s way to avoid the responsibilities of living, for ourselves or each other? This is a classy, thoughtful and fiercely intelligent film that would look good on the big screen during its festival run, but probably will find a more substantial, grown-up audience on streaming at home; with the answers not found at the bottom of a wine-glass, the well-acted and carefully conceived Under Spanish Skies does a sensitive job of peeling back the despair behind the surface glamour of ex-pats in a foreign land.


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  1. Got depressed enough watching those two Scottish guys trying to work out how to kill one of them. Suicide harldy improves just because it’s in a warner climate.

    • Sigh. Nice to do something serious, I’ll have Shazam 2 Dawn of the Furies or whatever ready for you later in the week, Bunty…

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