The Trip to Spain review

Rob Brydon [Rob] and Steve Coogan [Steve] in Michael Winterbottom’s THE TRIP TO SPAIN. Photo courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

The Trip, as a franchise, is both surprising and unorthodox. First, who would have thought that two friends talking and goofing off while experiencing trendy restaurants would have this kind of appeal? Secondly, in the UK and elsewhere, it is a television program which has been edited down to a single feature film for each series. I didn’t realize this until turning on the television in London while The Trip to Italy was being broadcast, which I believe is a testament to the relaxed nature of the concept, as well as the directing of Michael Winterbottom. Sadly, the six 30 minute episode versions aren’t made available to Americans on disc or (legal) streaming.

Over the course of the last seven years, the series has come to mean a lot to me. I sought out the original film just to understand where all of the Michael Caine impressions were coming from and was delighted by the film. The chemistry between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is note-perfect, especially since they aren’t playing close friends, and the way the series mixes together comedy and personal growth makes the most of its two leads and its premise. Each of these films are their own emotional journey, and The Trip to Spain is no exception.

Being able to revisit these characters every few years has been a joy and even more meaningful as myself and so many of my friends move into different stages of adulthood. It’s both scary and comforting to see these two men confront aging in different ways. The push and pull between satisfaction in a current situation and desire for something better is a constant struggle in life when it comes to finding happiness. The Spanish setting is an easy excuse to literalize the quixotic nature of this goal. While it would be easy to reduce the film’s overall perspective to ‘the grass is always greener,’ what makes this such a resonant exploration of those feelings is the acknowledgement that it is difficult to properly assess them in the midst of career and relationships. That’s part of what makes a trip away (even with the constant interruption allowed by phones) the perfect time to assess these things.

The Trip to Spain is certainly not for those who are less than enamored with the two leads, but for those who find these characterized versions of Coogan and Brydon and their constant preening, sniping, and trying to top each other charming, more time with these two will certainly be a treat. After two previous installments, this one is even more wistful. These two are truly getting older than the first time we saw them together on screen almost a decade ago, but there is comfort in knowing that they feel like they are finally ripening.

While it might have been difficult to top the Mediterranean bliss of the previous entry, this one packs even more of a visual punch, with idyllic Spanish hillside towns, castles, and rains. The previous film looked to the Grand Tour and Byron, Shelley, and Keats for inspiration, but this uses more of an amalgamation of sources ranging from Cervantes to the Inquisition, Orwell, and the Spanish Civil War. Despite being all connected to the setting, it does feel a bit scattershot (at least in this abbreviated format).

The Trip is a film I would recommend to everyone, while the sequels are easy to recommend to fans of the original, there isn’t enough new here to recommend this one as a standalone. That being said, I look forward to joining these two on more culinary tours in the years to come.

The Trip to Spain opens in Philly area theaters today.

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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