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Posts Tagged ‘"Language Lessons"’

Mark Duplass, Natalie Morales

“LANGUAGE LESSONS” My rating: B+ (In theaters)

91 minutes | No MPAA rating

Adversity is good for filmmakers. The old Hollywood Production Code may have been a censorious pain in the ass, but in working around it creative moviemakers expanded the limits of cinema.

The COVID pandemic seems to have done the same thing in the case of “Language Lessons,” a ridiculously simple premise that, by stripping filmmaking down to its essentials, finds depths of humanity and emotion that usually get lost in the technical shuffle.

Written by and starring Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass, and directed by Morales, this two-hander is simplicity itself, unfolding in a series of Zoom and/or Skype/Facetime calls.

The entire picture unfolds through the cameras built into cell phones, iPads and computers. There’s little in the way of editing; mostly we log on and stick with a conversation for several uninterrupted minutes.

Here’s the setup: Adam (Duplass) has been given a year’s worth of weekly online Spanish lessons by his spouse Will (DeSean Terry, heard briefly but never seen). The teacher is Carino (Morales), who lives in Costa Rica and speaks perfect English, though she insists on Adam conversing almost exclusively in Spanish. How else is this lazy guy gonna learn?

Right off the bat we sense a lot about these two. Adam and Will live in Oakland in a nice house with a big swimming pool and a ton of trendy art. Will runs a dance company (apparently it pays really well); Adam appears to be something of a kept man.

Carino, on the other hand, lives modestly. Unlike the chatty Adam, she’s reluctant to share too much. Wouldn’t be professional.

Thing is, professionalism only goes so far. Early in the film tragedy befalls Adam and Carino finds herself giving a lot more than just language lessons. She is forced into the position of counselor and therapist. And more even than that.

Given the physical limitations of the production one might expect “Language Lessons” to quickly wear out its welcome. If anything, we’re sucked ever deeper into these two personalities and their respective issues.

Also, thanks to modern technology, we can remain on line while cruising the city streets or exploring a jungle stream, so this is not the static experience you might expect.

Moreover, Morales and Duplass turn in spectacularly good performances…seemingly without breaking a sweat.

On an emotional level “Language Lessons” is a workout, a study of the growing friendship of two dissimilar individuals and the ability of the human connection to span thousands of miles. Smart viewers will have a box of tissues close at hand.

| Robert W. Butler

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