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By Admin | February 19, 2000

I took two years of French in high school and another two in college. Yet when I actually met people who spoke French for real, I couldn’t understand a word they said. Thanks to that humbling experience, I can certainly identify with Yumiko Koyama, a twenty-year old Japanese student who’s enrolled in a school near San Francisco in order to learn English. Although she studied English for six years in Japan, she’s finding that she can scarcely communicate, even at the most basic level. Though the aggravations of a language barrier might seem like an odd subject for a film, this simple but charming slice of life from Sugimasa Yamashita reminds us of a vexing dilemma unique to this nation of immigrants. Unfortunately, “Can’t Speak” is simply too short to complete its tale with any sense of satisfaction. Instead, just at Yumiko’s moment of crisis, Yamashita bails out and allows the frustrated and depressed student to simply vent her feelings in a rushed, keep-an-eye-on-the-running-time voice-over ending. “Show it, don’t tell it” is still the rule, and that holds up in any language.

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