IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF LANGUAGE LESSONS!
After melting the hearts of Berlinale’s fans, Language Lessons makes its way to the SXSW Film Festival and it’s an endearing experience that will leave everyone surrendered by its charms. Directed and starred by Natalie Morales, Language Lessons, is a Zoom dramedy that focuses on Adam, who his husband Will unexpectedly buys him spanish lessons online for two years as a birthday gift, and his spanish teacher Cariño. After a sudden event, Adam and Cariño start to develop an unique friendship and sharing their feelings about their lives and experiences. With amazing performances by its two leads, Language Lessons becomes the dramedy that uses virtual connection to its advantage in a beautiful, enchanting and creative story that definitely sets up a new stage for pandemic-based cinema.
Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass are extraordinary in this adorable little urban fable that has all the elements it needs to become an entertaining exercise, relying on the actors’ ability to improvise and to look natural in their performances, immediatly pulling the viewers to their now common day activities. But it’s also absorbing in the way it enlightens to some problems of being locked down and not having human contact, specially when it comes to the rise of domestic violence or not having the in person emotional support after a tragedy that shapes the entire course of one’s life. Adam and Cariño’s friendship is also one that can easily relate to audiences by making them aware that virtuality can still be a means to connect with different people and forging new relationships. But none of this would have such an impact without the brilliant, touching and spontaneous performances by its two talented leading actors.
Language Lessons marks a particular turning point in the visual arts in using Zoom or other video platforms as a means to create fresh and relatable content. While many pandemic comedies have failed to be balanced in showing this new way to promote human interactions in a social distancing world, Language Lessons rises to the occasion and delivers a powerful message of unity even if through a computer or cell phone screen. This is the film’s biggest asset in becoming triumphant, using a common recent reality and giving it a purpose to show people around the world that virtual human interactions can be fruitful and provide opportunities to keep our minds sane during these troubled times.
It’s simple, straightforward and, fortunatelly, never falls into the clichés we are so tired from. It’s not perfect, because Language Lessons could’ve explored better its underlying themes, but ultimately Morales camouflages its flaws by leading the audience to cherish the characters’ growing relationship with some funny moments and a deliciously messy Duplass Spanish accent. Mark Duplass is a versatile actor who has been proving himself to be so creative and so talented after his work in Togetherness and other films and television series, that it’s time we start giving the merit he deserves. In Language Lessons he is amazingly natural, endearing and completes the unlevelled Morales’ character behavior throughout the film. Morales herself is also at the top of her game and Language Lessons may become the launching pad she needed to become recognized among Hollywood’s competitive world.
Therefore, Language Lessons is that inspiring, sweet little movie that will make you laugh and cry in a pandemic context that fortunately has all the right elements to feel relevant and fresh. Even if some aspects and situations could have been explored with a clearer, more developed exposure, it doesn’t stop Language Lessons to be a relatable human tale of two damaged souls that find comfort in each other, even if they are miles apart, in the other side of a screen. By setting up a story that can uplift people to this current situation of scarce human contact, Language Lessons shows the world that there are advantages in protecting ourselves from the virus outside, and still develop new and strong relationships while we’re at home. By never romanticizing the characters, Morales shows the power that friendship has in the battle against mental health that acts as a consequence of being indoors during these troubled times. There is no price in that, and that is what makes this film an extraordinary achievement.
CineAddiction will have film festival reviews written in English to respect and endorse the festival norms. The Portuguese version will arrive later and will be featured in our social media.
You can read other reviews here.
Title: Language Lessons
Original Title: Language Lessons
Director: Natalie Morales
Runtime: 91 min.