One Apartment, Six Languages, and a Girlfriend Who Won’t Sleep With You

Remember those balmy, frightening days back in your 20s, when everything seemed possible and nothing worked, when love and sex were right around the corner and completely unattainable?  You’re still in your 20s?  Right, then you know what I’m talking about.

L’Auberge Espagnole (2002) stars Romain Duris as Xavier, a young Parisian who falls in with the suggestion that he learn Spanish as part of a job offer. He attaches himself to the Erasmus Program, kisses his girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou) goodbye, and flies to Barcelona sight unseen. His first night is spent with a dismal friend of the family. After that, he begs for space on the couch of a young French couple he met in the airport — though he’s very much in their way.

Then, life begins: he’s accepted as the new member of a six-person, young, multi-national apartment. His Spanish burgeons, he falls in and out of love, persuades, argues, rescues, and grows up. His new friends (notably Kelly Reilly and Cécile de France, the latter practically unrecognizable beneath a Goth-black wig) have their own problems — sometimes in their own languages — Xavier himself begins to have visions, and Martine arrives from Paris for a rendezvous less joyous than meh. It doesn’t matter.  It’s as though Xavier’s future self is dragging him through mud in order to reach a much better place. 

This chaotic swirl of a movie makes us smile, though. It reminds us of things we’ve done, almost did, or meant to do . . . or may still dare.

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