To Die in San Hilario

Welcome to San Hilario...
Welcome to San Hilario...

Spanish title: Morir en San Hilario
Country: Spain
Year: 2005
Genre: Comedy
Director: Laura Mañá
Produced by Diego Conejero, Carlos Fernández, Julio Fernández and José Luis García Espina for Canal+ España, Castelao Producciones, Filmax, Generalitat de Catalunya – Institut Català de les Indústries Culturals (ICIC), Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO), Ministerio de Cultura, Tango Films, Televisió de Catalunya (TV3), Televisión Española (TVE)
Story and screenplay: Laura Mañá
Music: Francesc Gener
Cinematographer: Javier Salmones
Editor: Bernat Vilaplana
Art director: Balter Gallart
Cast: Lluís Homar (‘Piernas’ Germán), Ana Fernández (Esther), Ferran Rañé (Teodoro), Ulises Dumont (Mariano), Juan Echanove (Cura Antonio), Eric Bonicatto (Cándido), Milton De La Canal (Pablo), Max Berliner (Cayetano), Rita Terranova (Berta), Damián Dreizik (Horacio), Carlos Bermejo (Crater), María Elina Ruas (Rosita), Guido D’Albo (Fermín), Andrés Zurita (Alfredo), Oscar Alegre (Gordo), Sergio Lerer (Buitre), Martín Pavlovsky (Rafael), Salo Pasik (Comisario), Damián Casermeiro (Ayudante Comisario), Alejandro Bresciani (Carnicero), Italo Damiano (Viejo Germán), Andrés Shakespear (Policía), Javier Iriberri (Contable), Tecsido Goythia (Maquinista 1), Carlos Issa (Maquinista 2), José Luis Espina (Conductor Camioneta), Florencia Eleit (Alicia), Carla Pierazzolli (Madre Alicia), Antonio Sofía (Músico 1), Germán Vidal (Músico 2), Mario Victorio Roncel (Músico 3), Alberto Luis Medeot (Múisco 4), Jorge Andrés Rosker (Músico 5), Víctor Ramón Vergara (Músico 6), Ezequiel Garcia (Niño Tamborilero), Nicola Augusto Roncel (Niño Platillos)
Spanish takings: €275.310,82
Spanish spectators: 52.194
Spanish subsidies: Ayudas a la Amortización de Largometrajes – General (€31.634,90), Ayudas a la Conservación de Negativos y soportes originales (€11.850,37), Ayudas a la Minoración de Intereses – Producción (€29.149,09)


Set in the 1930s (?), ‘Legs’ (Lluís Homar) is a rather hapless gangster, who manages to escape from a bungled police raid with a sack full of cash and hops on a handy train heading for the heart of the Spanish countryside. He gets of in a small town in the middle of nowhere called San Hilario – the place is so obscure it doesn’t even appear on the map – hoping to hide out for a few weeks until the heat has died down. Unfortunately, San Hilario is a rather odd place: a town that developed around a large cemetary, and as such became known as a place where people go to die, sure of having a top notch funeral. And, thanks to a series of coincidences, they mistake ‘Legs’ for their latest customer, a famous artist called German Cortes.

It takes a while for ‘Legs’ to catch onto what’s going on – depite being measured up for his funeral suit and coffin – and he’s simply convinced that the town’s full of mad people. In the meantime, though, this gruff outsider begins to have a positive effect on the inhabitants of San Hilario , and in turn he begins to appreciate the quiet life there, not least because he embarks upon a relationship with local widow Esther (Ana Fernández). However, the date of his ‘death’ rapidly approaches…


To Die in San Hilario
To Die in San Hilario

To Die in San Hilario (aka Morir en San Hilario) is a likable, entertaining 2005 film from Castaleo, the same Barcelona production house that made Jaume Balaguero’s Fragile, among many other films. It marks something of a change for them… whereas their usual releases can usually be classified as ‘genre’ material, most specifically horror, this is a whimsical comedy-drama that’s rather like – but at the same time completely different to – a Hispanic version of Little Miss Sunshine.

A subtle black comedy, with the humor coming from the characters rather than the dialogue or farcical situation, this is actually rather a sweet film, despite the fact that it all hinges around the certainty of death. It has touches of magical realism, and the eccentric villagers and befuddled central character aren’t too different from fish-out-of-water TV series such as Hamish Macbeth or Doc Martin. A lot of it’s effectiveness is due to Lluís Homar, who looks a little like a sturdier Jack Nicholson, and gives a finely judged performance (you may have spotted him in Almodovar’s Bad Education).

Laura Mañá – an actress and director who previously made Killing Words – directs with some style. A lot of this was filmed in Argentina, but it actually looks rather like Almeria, and some of the stylings have something of the Spaghetti western about them (much like another film with similar themes, Patrice Laconte’s L’homme du train).

Rating: 5/10

Review by Matt Blake, 2007

What the critics said

“This mistaken-identity comedy from Latin America is a deeply trying and predictable piece of feelgood whimsy about a runaway villain with a bag full of stolen cash who finds himself in a sleepy Argentinean town that prides itself on its elaborate funerals.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.

“… while the film’s blend of magic realism, morbid farce and homely sentimentality may have played well in Spain, it may strike UK viewers as excessively twee. Often confusing – how exactly Germán’s funeral will save the village is never clear – and overstuffed with incident, the film drags even at less than 100 minutes. If you want to see a warm-hearted Spanish comedy about mortality, wait for Almodovár’s Volver” Edward Lawrenson, Time Out.

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