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By John Clapp | July 20, 2008

“English Language (With English Subtitles)” follows the relationship between a Brit named Mulligan (played by writer/director Tim Plester) and his Scandinavian girlfriend Esther (Myanna Buring). Together, they’re the epitome of a normal, modern-day young couple. It’s clearly a loving relationship, and you quickly get a sense of their fondness for each other, but Mulligan and Esther prove to be vulnerable to communication breakdowns, just as any good couple is. The bulk of the movie concerns the lonely and silent days that can (and often) follow such breakdowns.

What’s unique about this film – besides the clever writing, subtle acting, artful shooting and heady music – is that all dialogue, and even some silence, is accompanied by subtitles. Yes, an English-language film with English subtitles.

That’s what really ups the quirk factor: The smart and funny “English Language” is told largely through the written word. Plester uses subtitles as a tremendous storytelling device. Sometimes, they further convey a particular line’s just-under-the-surface meaning. Other times, they completely reverse gear of what’s on screen. Plester’s mastery of subtitles is on full display. They act as his tools, used for everything from delivering subtext to eliciting chuckles.

Added in are Buring’s and Plester’s tremendously nuanced performances. The characters’ situation may tug at heartstrings, but it doesn’t bog down the film.

“English Language” is shot almost entirely in black and white, and it works perfectly (the couple instances of color seem completely appropriate, if not unexpected).

This is a truly creative and enjoyable film that’s not only easy to watch, but positively engaging. [subtitles: check it out!].

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