LFF Review: Language Lessons

LFF Review of Language Lessons starring Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass

DIRECTED BY

Natalie Morales

STARRING

Natalie Morales, Mark Duplass, Desean Terry and Christine Quesada

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SYNOPSIS

A Spanish teacher and her student develop an unexpected friendship.

Film Review of Language Lessons from BFI London Film Festival - Mark Duplass as Adam

When Adam reluctantly receives a gift from his partner of a hundred Spanish lessons with Cariño, neither teacher nor student are convinced it will last. However, following a bereavement, the pair find themselves becoming each other’s lifelines, despite living in different countries and barely knowing one another.

Film Review - Language Lessons - Natalie Morales as Carino

Language Lessons is a drama written and directed by Natalie Morales, making her directorial feature debut having directed numerous shorts and television episodes throughout her career thus far. The film tells the story of Cariño, a Spanish teacher residing in Costa Rica, who is hired by Will to provide a hundred Spanish lessons for his husband Adam as a surprise, with the couple residing in Oakland. When Adam learns of this, and that it will be for the next hundred weeks, he’s unsure about where or how this new element will fit into his already structured life. However, when tragedy strikes, his teacher becomes a lifeline he didn’t know he needed.

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With a tight running time of just over an hour and a half, the screenplay decides to cut from the expected, such as instead of being a complete novice, Adam does know a good amount of Spanish due to his childhood. So his first lesson with Cariño is more relaxed than it normal and from their initial interaction there is a friendship beginning to form between the two and when tragedy strikes, that bond gets stronger as they gradually send each other video messages between lessons. While Cariño and Adam become a part of each others lives and they provide comfort fo each other, there’s a certain barrier that feels like it’s set in place. Like Adam is constantly shifting through various locations of his house, while Cariño is limited to either one room inside or outside during their lessons time, indicating that while they get along well in conversation, is the friendship truly earnest?

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The film certainly tackles a lot of themes of social media/online interactions that a lot of viewers would relate to, like we could all put a certain version of ourselves online while maintaining a barrier of withholding someone from knowing to much about us, or we either put ourselves out there and face the pain and/or joy that comes with it. Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass have undeniably fantastic chemistry between the two of them, I could’ve easily sat for an extra half-hour watching them conversing with one another. For a COVID pandemic shot film, it’s easily one of, if not the best I’ve seen so far to enable the Zoom-style format. The final act does feel slightly melodramatic on how it tackles matters of perceptions and narratives, not leaving it enough time to breath as it’s so close to the films conclusion, and audiences will either either like the ending or feel slightly let down by it considering how the rest of the film naturally flowed.

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VERDICT

One of the best quarantine-style films that I’ve come across, Language Lessons is a lovely drama with terrific chemistry between Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass.

★★★★