I wanted to watch the sequel to this film: Russian Dolls, but felt I should refresh myself with the original first. I originally saw it at the Seattle Film Festival about five years ago and really enjoyed it. As a film, but more so by living vicariously through the main character Xavier; spending a year in a European country, initially learning about and then living fully immersed in another culture is something I'd love to do. Xavier moves from France to Spain as a student, the film does a wonderful job of giving you an idea of what it’s like to move into Madrid as an outsider; the complication of the language differences, the confusion of the city’s design, the trouble in finding a place to live.
When he does find an apartment, it’s a total European hodge-podge; including a British girl, a Spanish girl, a German guy, a Dutch guy, an Italian guy and now a Frenchman. They bond in their love of foreign cultures, appreciating each others differences. Xavier begins to love the city, he quickly grows accustom to its differences. They show this comfortableness through his relationship with another French girl that he met when he first moved to the city, who he lived with for the first month. She’s barely traveled out of her comfort zone, doesn’t enjoy the difference in culture; but he shows her how to enjoy the city.
Things get complicated when they sleep together, she's married and he has a girlfriend, played by Amelie’s Audrey Tatou; the only recognizable face to the average American viewer. She remained in France and things are getting very strained between them. Besides his romantic troubles, there isn’t a ton of story to the film, it’s more of a glimpse into Xavier’s year in Spain, and the relationships he develops with the colorful characters that surround him; most of who are developed fairly nicely; so that you get a sense for their view of the world and that you feel a loss when he’s done with school, and has to move away from these strangers who’ve become great friends.
L’ Auberge Espanol isn’t for everyone, I think that you have to have an interest in traveling and/or appreciation for good filmmaking to really enjoy the film. There’s a beginning and an end, but not a lot happens in between, at least plot-wise, it’s more internal character development. If you don’t connect with Xavier and his friends you’ll quickly get bored. Me, I’m looking forward to another visit with the sequel Russian Dolls.