By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
By now I have seen a good handful of “computer screen” films, most of which have been entries in either the horror or suspense-thriller genres. Given that computers and technology play such major roles in the lives of real people now, it makes perfect sense that some movies get framed/shot “virtually.” The 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic would push this new style closer to the fore front. What makes the film Language Lessons unique in this subgenre is that it is neither a thriller nor a horror feature, but is a relationship drama that beautifully captures a deeply caring friendship that begins via virtual chat.
Natalie Morales (who also writes and directs) stars as Cariño, a young Spanish teacher hired to help Adam improve his fluency and proficiency with the language. Adam’s husband Will (Desean Terry) paid for these lessons as a gift. Though the lessons start off awkwardly and uncomfortably, the warm and vibrant Cariño and the funny and charming Adam quickly form a comfortable rapport with each other that soon evolves into friendship. As the two communicate more and more, they both open up to each other in very personal ways forming a genuine bond that transcends a normal relationship between teacher and student.
Now, I hope my synopsis doesn’t make the characters’ relationship sound more like a romantic/sexual connection, because that is not at all how the relationship develops. Morales, who co-wrote the film with co-star Mark Duplass, has made a very timely “Zoom” about two people very much in need of loving and caring friendship. Both Morales and Duplass have a wonderful chemistry in both their writing, as well as their performances together. Their combined talents for creating and developing these fictional characters and their gifts for bringing them to life is the perfect recipe for a beautiful and superb film.
Language Lessons is definitely a film I highly recommend. Given that most of us has spent so much time alone during this pandemic, that we often hunger for human connection, this movie reminds us of what it is like to form an attachment with a true friend who loves and accepts us for who we really are without any pretensiousness whatsoever. It is not only one of my favorite films of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, it is probably the best “computer screen” movie I have seen so far.