Spanish Affair

****

Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

Spanish Affair is the biggest box office hit in Spain.
"Although there will no doubt be some cultural references that go over the heads of non-Spanish audiences, the stereotypes and prejudices played with are broad enough for us to get most of the jokes."

The biggest box office hit in Spain, Spanish Affair (Ocho apellidos vascos) is a romcom based in the culture clash between North (represented by Clara Lago as Amaia) and South (Dani Rovira as Rafa). Proud Basque Amaia (prickly and with a fringe "that looks like it's been cut with an axe" according to Rafa) is in Seville on what should have been her hen-do, except her fiancé has bolted and left her with the wedding debts. Somewhat the worse for drink, she takes loud exception to waiter Rafa's stand-up routine poking fun at Basque stereotypes - he throws her out of the restaurant, an argument ensues and one thing leads to another...almost. Their one-night stand is unconsummated (Amaia passes out) and Rafa is left holding her handbag when she flees the next morning.

Bemused at encountering a woman immune to his charms, Rafa - who is all hair gel and exaggeratedly-gallant charm - decides to head to the Basque Country (having never left Andalusia before) to return Amaia's bag and declare his undying love. He is quickly disabused of his romantic notions by Amaia, but she has to enlist his help when her estranged father, Koldo (Karra Elejalde) arrives for her wedding and she can't bring herself to tell him that she has been jilted - Rafa will pretend to be 'Antxon' for the three days that Koldo is in town. But that involves passing as a Basque (with the strong lineage implied by the original Spanish title - 'Eight Basque Surnames').

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Although there will no doubt be some cultural references that go over the heads of non-Spanish audiences, the stereotypes and prejudices played with are broad enough for us to get most of the jokes (e.g. the assumptions about the dangers of the Basque Country - in a side story Rafa accidentally becomes leader to a misguided band of independence activist-wannabes). There is also physical comedy in the form of the openly affectionate Rafa trying to tone down his expressiveness in order to replicate the expected stony-faced masculinity represented by Koldo - although the latter unravels when he gets sloshed with Merche (Carmen Machi), another Andalusian 'abroad' who agrees to pretend to be Rafa's mother.

Emilio Martínez-Lazaro (The Other Side of the Bed) is an experienced hand at romantic comedies and keeps all of the plates spinning for the duration, but credit must also go to the script by Borja Cobeaga and Diego San José (a lovestruck male lead who bears the brunt of the comedy of errors in pursuit of a woman is a recurring feature of Cobeaga's own films to date). Spanish Affair is admittedly - and proudly - corny, but it also has the goofily-goodnatured charm of its male lead and moments of laugh-out-loud funniness.

Reviewed on: 16 Sep 2014
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In order to help the only woman resistant to his charms, a man from Seville must pass as her Basque fiancé for three days in the Basque Country.

Festivals:

London 2014
SSFF 2014

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The Other Side Of The Bed