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SXSW Review: ‘Language Lessons’

March 19, 2021Ben MK

It's no secret that the pandemic has given many people good reason to rekindle old interests or perhaps adopt new ones. Whether it be baking, reading, or even becoming a new pet parent, the list of potential pastimes seems endless. And in Language Lessons, director Natalie Morales explores one such hobby — that of learning a language — and the unlikely friendship that can arise out of it.

Filmed during the pandemic and unfolding over a series of video calls between Morales and co-star/co-writer Mark Duplass, the film tells the story of a woman named Cariño (Morales) and a man named Adam (Duplass), two people separated by an ocean who are brought together when Adam's husband, Will (Desean Terry), secretly signs him up for 100 weeks of online Spanish lessons. But when sudden tragedy strikes and Adam finds himself in need of a virtual shoulder to cry on, the pair's relationship shifts from that of a student and her teacher to something more akin to genuine friendship, as they begin to connect on a level neither of them ever expected.

Clearly a reflection of our strange new normal, what follows shows just how important a role technology plays in our lives today. More importantly, though, it's a reminder that we're only as lonely as we choose to be — and that the first step in getting help is reaching out for it in the first place.

Language Lessons screens under the Narrative Spotlight section at the 2021 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 31 min.

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