In an era where we’re overwhelmed with features made during quarantine, it’s hard to find a film that strays from the rest and is actually worthwhile watching. While Language Lessons doesn’t necessarily go above and beyond in creating something entirely groundbreaking, it’s one ‘zoom film’ that is unmissable. Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass lead this two-hander and bring us hope and joy in their friendship that blossoms over zoom calls.
Lesson 1: Immersion
Morales’ directorial debut is set over video calls as Cariño (Morales) teaches her new student Adam (Mark Duplass) to learn Spanish. Adam’s husband has surprised him with a 100 lesson weekly Spanish package over Zoom with teacher Cariño. He is already fairly fluent in Spanish, making the first few lessons a lot less about learning the language, and more about getting to know each other. They both frequently conversate in Spanish rather than in English, telling each other funny stories and life moments as part of the class.
Lesson 2: Comprehension
Cariño and Adam’s friendship progresses very quickly, and only a week in are they confiding in each other. After a few stumbles in their own personal lives, their bond becomes strong. They disclose information about their love life, ex-husbands, growing up, and everything in between. This is more than just an hour-long lecture on Spanish. An entirely platonic attachment forms. They almost become dependent on each other, always looking forward to another lesson.
Lesson 3: Context
Many ‘zoom films’ that were made over quarantine make the conscious choice to include COVID into the storyline. Language Lessons does not. The world outside is still ‘normal’ and there is no mention of the pandemic. Having that intended decision makes the story work a lot better. There’s no whining about getting the old life back, no longing for a vacation. Language Lessons is an immersive experience into two people’s flowering friendship. We didn’t need another story of two people making a fuss over when they’ll next get a flight to the Bahamas to escape being captive in their living rooms 24/7.
Lesson 4: Grammar
With countless on-screen projects before 2021, we’re used to seeing Morales and Duplass‘ effortless talent in films and TV. They both seem so passionate about their work here as well. Seeing the directors/producers/actors have a love for their project makes it 10x more special for the audience watching it. Language Lessons provides us with a sense of hope in these still tough times. I would have loved to have seen this film on the big screen as opposed to my laptop. That’s how genuinely entertaining it is.
Special onscreen connections are hard to find. Before Sunrise, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Love Actually, Full Moon in Paris, just to name a few that really pull at the heartstrings, all do the romance genre justice. Language Lessons explores platonic love in a way we haven’t seen before. It doesn’t focus on sexuality or finding yourself in someone else, it is a simplistic story on friendship. I can’t recommend this one enough.
For more information on Language Lessons and other films playing at the London Film Festival, check out their website.
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