Screened as part of NZIFF 2021

Language Lessons 2021

Directed by Natalie Morales

Two strangers explore the pleasures and pitfalls of platonic friendship while bonding over online Spanish lessons in this intimate, expressive drama shot during lockdown over video-chat calls.

USA In English and Spanish with English subtitles
92 minutes DCP



Cast, Screenplay

Mark Duplass
Natalie Morales


Mel Eslyn


Jeremy Mackie


Aleshka Ferrero


Gaby Moreno


London 2021


Audience Award (Narrative Spotlight)
SXSW 2021


“A gentle relationship study playing out entirely through the cramped, sterile rectangles of a virtual chat app, actor-director Natalie Morales’ freshman feature Language Lessons... [is a] tender, slender story of a queer California widower (Mark Duplass) processing his grief through online Spanish classes with a Costa Rican stranger (Morales)… Language Lessons is plainly a feat of quarantine-era production, with its two-actor, two-location, two-screen setup making it pretty much a model of what can be accomplished in lockdown conditions...

As Adam [Duplass] spirals through grief in its various pained stages, he and Cariño [Morales] converse both directly and by exchanging bilingual video messages, like 21st century penpals. While he treats her alternately as a friend, therapist and impartial sounding-board – initially oblivious to what crises she may be juggling in her own life – she flip-flops over just how much of this emotional labor she’s willing to share...

Films explicitly about the formation of friendships are rare, and Morales and Duplass have fashioned rather a perceptive one, adapting the push-pull dynamics of a romantic comedy to more delicate psychological terrain.

...It’s the amiable, spontaneous rapport between the two actor-writers that... lends ballast to [the film]... Large corners of backstory remain unpainted on both sides... which seems less a failure of writing than an acknowledgement of how much life is lived... beyond the scope of the webcam.” — Guy Lodge, Variety