Review: Cousinhood (Daniel Sanchez Aravelo)

Cousinhood is an amusing and heartwarming feel-good bromance tale written and directed by Daniel Sanchez Aravelo (Dark Blue). His third feature is somewhat uneven structurally, but overall it is a pleasantly entertaining story about three cousins who visit their old summer vacation spot to recharge their manhood.

Just hours before he is to be married, Diego (Quim Gutierrez) is left standing at the altar by his fiancée. Devastated and unsure what to do next (try and win her back or move on) and in the company of his two cousins, the physically and emotionally fragile Jose Miguel (Adrian Lastra), a war veteran who lost an eye, and the macho and rambunctious Julian (Raul Arevalo), Diego is convinced into setting off to Comillas, a tranquil town that was the site of their teenage summer holidays. Dragging along Jose Miguel, a hypochondriac who fears leaving his comfort zone, they embark on a quest to have a boozy summer and cure Diego’s broken heart.

While in Comillas the three of them find themselves in some of the local drama. Diego seeks out and reunites with his first love, the beautiful Martina (Inma Cuesta), who lives in his old house. Julian runs into a drunken old-timer, the former owner of the video store he and his cousins frequented, and tries to reunite him with his estranged daughter. Juan Miguel bonds with Martina’s son, (who may or may not be Diego’s), and after sharing their mutual fears learns to find the courage to make decisions for himself and not rely on his overbearing girlfriend, Tona, whom he left back at home and has not contacted. Diego’s story is most central and he faces a crisis when he discovers that he may desire Martina more than the source of a rebound affair. Things get more complicated when his ex-fiancée makes a visit.

Arevalo has crafted an entertaining guy movie that has some good laughs – a tiny dose of crude humour and masculine silliness and some well-timed running gags – but it also has plenty of heart and works as a relatively clever and mature analysis of the ideas of Spanish manhood. The trio each learn something by the end of their journey – learning to think for others ahead of themselves, learning to be independent and make decisions as a man and an individual and not be influenced primarily by their love for a woman, and take pride in their masculinity when it has taken a hit. They also proved they still have what it takes on-stage and near the film’s finale the three perform a rendition of a Backstreet Boys song, one they hadn’t sung together since high school. It is a celebration of their evolvement as men and one of the film’s highlights.

One of the primary references is that Diego once had “balls like Spartacus” and his recent humiliation has shriveled them. He is on a quest, and he’s a likeable enough guy, and Gutierrez gives a sympathetic enough performance to earn our support. Arevello has a great time running amok as Julian, and he’s often a scene-stealer, while the sequences between Miguel and Martina’s son are very sweet.

The film looks good, and as any story set in a quaint little country town, the use of the location is imperative. As the trio get used to the customs, reunite with their former acquaintances, and try and make sense of their lives we are also taken on a journey through Comillas. One for the guys and fans of films like The Hangover should find plenty of laughs. Like Chinese Take Away its not groundbreaking, bur a more than satisfying flick to throw into a festival mix to offer up a break from a drama-heavy schedule.

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