One of life’s greatest gifts is that of true friendship, and “Language Lessons,” a platonic love story from director Natalie Morales and her co-writer Mark Duplass, is a charming and heartwarming film that’s guaranteed to hit you right in the feels. It’s bursting at the seams with so much honesty, truth, and genuineness that it’s nearly impossible not to fall under its spell.
Adam (Duplass), who lives an affluent lifestyle in Northern California, is surprised with a gift of Spanish lessons from his husband Will (Desean Terry). He meets with his instructor Cariño (Morales), based out of Costa Rica, online via weekly Zoom calls. As their long distance friendship grows, the two bond over tragedy, trauma, grief, misunderstanding, respect, and affection. They share these emotions from afar, bonding solely through the world wide web.
The plot is a prime example of storytelling that’s well-suited for the COVID world. The shoestring budget doesn’t hurt the strength of the story one bit, as all of the action takes place over a computer screen. The video call setup between teacher and student, including the technical glitches with which many of us are now so familiar, makes the characters even more relatable. The narrative is told in chapters that reflect the daily lessons, which start out as uneventful. But the more these two get to know each other, the deeper things unfold during their conversations. These gradual (and at times, sudden) reveals become more effective the longer the audience spends time becoming invested in the pair’s budding friendship.
The major jolts to the plot come in the form of shocking disclosures, which feel a tad artificial in their purpose to force the story along. I’ll forgive Duplass for that, because nobody wants to watch a two hour Zoom call where little of consequence happens. Here Duplass shows off what he does the absolute best as a predominant member of the modern independent film community: penning an incredibly insightful script filled with organic humor and heart.
It’s evident the two leads have a history of working together in the past (on the HBO series “Room 104”), and their trust with each other in real life translates to the screen tenfold. There’s a feeling of comfort and security that’s powerful and true. Their chemistry is palpable in a way that complements the heartfelt story.
A long distance relationship isn’t always about romantic love, and “Language Lessons” so beautifully expresses the value of finding a true friend. As Cariño and Adam share the details of their days, they help each other begin to heal the brokenness that’s present in both of their lives. If you’re feeling a bit lost and alone in the world right now, this may be exactly the film you need.