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Film Review: Language Lessons
by Rose Finlay

Natalie Morales, USA 2021

Adam (Mark Duplass) has always wanted to learn Spanish, so for his birthday his partner Will (Desean Terry) hires him an online language teacher named Cariño (Natalie Morales). Mark is a little uncertain at first about it, but soon warms up to the lessons and over time, Adam and Natalie learn more and more about each other’s lives. When Adam’s life begins to fall apart, his bond with Natalie strengthens, but when she also struggles, she finds it difficult to open up to Adam for help. LANGUAGE LESSONS is a beautiful tale of friendship across borders and how simple human kindness can lead to life-saving relationships.

Despite the majority of the film taking place via video chat, LANGUAGE LESSONS doesn’t pull any punches and demonstrates how filmmakers can make powerful films using a variety of techniques and situations. Watching it during the winter lockdown, for the online press screenings for the Berlinale, simply added to its general effectiveness as it spoke to the very human need for connections even when we are isolated in our homes for various reasons. Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales do a wonderful job of bringing their characters to life and if, at times, the limitations of a story told entirely by video chat is felt, it is quickly forgotten as the two continue to impress with their strong acting. LANGUAGE LESSONS is a powerful and memorable story which only grows more powerful against the backdrop of the pandemic.