Language Lessons

Making her incredible directorial debut, Natalie Morales also wrote and stars in this Covid themed story about two unlikely friends bonded through trauma and a computer screen. Mark Duplass plays Morales’ counter-part, Adam, a man grieving his husband’s sudden death after being hit by a car on an evening run. Before his untimely death, Will (Desean Terry) buys his partner the Spanish lessons he’s been asking for, taught by Carino (Morales). Beyond the obvious lesson of how easy it is to be compassionate to another person, there were lots of themes coursing through the veins of this heartfelt tale of love and connection. The components ranged from white savior-ism, woman victimizing, bridging the gap between social and economic classes, to how the pandemic is allowing us as a human race to connect in different and optimistic ways.

Acknowledging their economic differences early on, the two new friends quickly forget they have very different lives. Even though they were given drastically different opportunities in life, they are able to connect on a human level which is easier said than done. Putting aside prejudices they both have about each other was possible because of they way they communicated; via Zoom. Once you have been on a Zoom call with someone and seen their bedroom or accidentally met their kids, there’s a reasonable amount of trust formed. Because of the pandemic forcing us to communicate through an intimate medium, we are forced to connect quicker than we have before, allowing us to know each other in new and deeper ways. I think another silver lining of COVID will be how we decide to restructure our social constructs and potentially how wiling we will be able to trust each other more quickly than ever before. This will hopefully give us the opportunity to offer each other more compassion faster and more openly, giving us a fighting chance to survive each other.

I thought the the way white privilege was portrayed was gentle and humanized which is different from the way social media makes it out to be. We have the urge to make privilege scary and demonic, but usually, it’s just some white guy that was born into a wealthy life and handed the world, only to think, “oh, ok, I guess”, and goes through imposter syndrome daily. I am not trying to downplay or dismiss white privilege in any way, I just think, perhaps, it’s smaller and more conquerable than we think. I enjoyed watching a rich white man and poor Latina discuss the meaning and role of money in their lives. Feeling guilty for having more money because of someones else’s racism causes the white man to try and give away his money to the Latina woman. Anger, jealously, and pride force the Latina to refuse his offers that she assumes is an attempt to feed his own ego. It was interesting watching both sides of that interaction, both valid and well-intentioned, and made the idea that rich white people can sometimes try to help without the intension of being the “white savior”, and that accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness or desperation, nor does it encourage privilege.

I appreciated the dynamic of the male and female perspectives about compassion and how the woman doesn’t need to be in trouble to deserve a male ally. She also doesn’t need to be saved, but instead needs to be supported to solve her own problems. I think the messaging was a way to communicate the opportunity we have to help each other if we just stop the noises in our heads and simply listen to what each other are saying. If men just listened to women, they would understand that we are in need of compassion and empathy in order to achieve the goals we have as individuals and as a species. I think if we could listen to men when they speak, void of ego, we would see that most of them have been thrust into a world expecting them to fix everything while they were unprepared emotionally and mentally their whole lives. They are usually operating from a scared, impostor syndrome induced state and if we give them a space to express their emotions and compassion, they will be happy to afford us the breathing room we need to thrive.

What I loved most about the messaging in this film was how simple it was to be compassionate to someone else. It was inspiring to be reminded that it doesn’t take a grand gesture to make someone’s day better. Sometimes, all it takes is a kind smile in traffic or holding the door for someone (while you stay 6 feet apart, of course). I am going to follow this film wherever it may go in the festival circuit and hope it gets picked up my a major distribution company so the rest of you can enjoy it, too! In the meantime, be sure to check out Natalie Morales in anything on her resume, she’s a force to be reckoned with and deserves all your attention.