In this Recommends piece, our Editor-in-Sheep, Pooja Bhatia reviews her favourite film Language Lessons.
Language Lessons starring Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales is a wholesome pandemic classic that leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling, the kind you get after sipping hot chocolate on a lazy winter afternoon. Mark Duplass essays the role of Adam, a middle aged man living in Oakland whose partner Will signs him up for a hundred Spanish lessons as a birthday present (hell yes to such presents). Initially reluctant, over the course of video calls and voice note exchanges, Adam warms up to his Spanish instructor Cariño (played by Natalie Morales) who lives with her mother in Costa Rica and the two forge an unspeakable emotional bond. Of course, the biggest reason to watch this film is its hard-to-miss charming star cast. But there are many other reasons we can give you, well 5 to be specific:
1. Fun way to learn a bit of Spanish
Remember how you picked up words like vamos, fuga and bueno while watching La casa de papel (pronounced la kasa de pa pel) or The House of Paper? This gets even better. Divided into thematic parts like Inmersión and Contexto, the film is a delightful way to learn new Spanish words or brush up on your existing Spanish skills. Fun fact: Mark Duplass conceived the idea for this film while he was taking online Spanish lessons himself during the pandemic with an institute in Gautemala. He thought it would be a great idea to replicate his real-life experience on reel.
2. It celebrates platonic relationships and friendships on screen
Mirroring Mark and Natalie’s real life dynamic, the film is yet another rare cinema gem that foregrounds non-romantic relationships. The bonhomie between Adam and Carino is infectious and we cannot help but smile along with them.
3. Co-written and directed by a woman
Directed and co-written by Natalie Morales, the film also stars Morales as the female lead. This hardly requires any supporting points. So we will leave you with a few statistics as fodder for thought:
Only one-in-four (25.8%) Best Picture winners revolve around the life of a woman lead or co-lead. Only 8.9% of Best Picture winners feature stories about the lives of people of color.Oscar Report, 2021
Despite making significant progress since the start of the decade, today’s top films are still overwhelmingly written by men— 73.0% compared to 26.0% of women. While there are ten times as many women film directors today compared to the start of the decade, male directors still outnumber female directors four-to-one in 2020 (79.5% compared with 20.5%)State of Media Report, 2021
Since the previous report, women have continued to increase their share of directors for top Hollywood films. Women claimed 20.5 percent of these critical positions in 2020, up from 15.1 percent in 2019. Between 2011, the first year examined in this report series, and 2020, women’s share of directors increased fivefold — from 4.1 percent to 20.5 percent. Despite these significant gains, women remained underrepresented by a factor of more than 2 to 1 in this employment arena in 2020Hollywood Diversity Report, 2021
Even though films produced, written, and directed by, and starring women, have a better return on investment, they receive smaller promotion budgets and 63% less distribution than films made by or starring men.Slated, film financing hub
4. Hopeful and feel-good watch
Building on human connection and empathy, the film brings out the best in us. Can two strangers connect over virtual calls and become friends? Is solidarity possible through technology? How do we break down the barriers that segregate us to have more meaningful conversations with people online? The film answers these complex questions and leaves us feeling good and hopeful in the end.
5. Most refreshing pandemic film
The film is essentially a series of zoom conversations and voice note exchanges between the two lead characters. Although the film makes no passing reference to the pandemic (and we are truly thankful for that), it is a sight we are all too familiar with.
Among other things, the pandemic has also changed the ways in which movies are made and stories are told. From low budget zoom films, stuck at home family dramas to well crafted thrillers and creative horrors, everything has been attempted and put out there. Host, Songbird, Locked Down, Homeroom, Doori and In the Same Breath are some interesting films that come to mind.
If you liked this, here’s a list of other pandemic picks that you should explore:
1. How Covid-19 Has Changed Onscreen Storytelling – The Hollywood Reporter
2. Watching Movies About Being Stuck at Home (While Being Stuck at Home) – Vulture
3. Films and Series That Were Shot in Isolation During the Covid-19 Pandemic – News18
4. 10 filmmakers came together to shoot ‘The Lockdown Shorts’ virtually – The Hindu
Pooja Bhatia is the Co-Founder and the Editor-in-Sheep of The Blahcksheep. She is a public policy and advocacy professional who tweets at @theblahcksheepx You can find all her writings on The Blahcksheep here. If you’d like to discuss a story idea with her or just say hello, drop her a mail at email@example.com