Imagine what it would be like as a young man to spend a year in Barcelona with an apartment full of male and female students drawn from all across Europe. Add a liberal mix of sex, partying, illicit affairs, cultural misunderstandings, language misunderstandings, occasional studying, and the backdrop of Spanish urban life, and you have “L’Auberge Espagnol,” sometimes translated as “The Spanish Apartment.”
The film follows young Xavier from his home in France to search for direction in Spain. He’s not sure what he wants to do.
His father’s friend convinces him a year in Spain will work wonders for his résumé.
When Xavier gets to Barcelona he seeks out an apartment. After finally stumbling on one populated by a bunch of European students he realizes he is attracted to the tumult and chaos they represent.
It turns out that is just what he needs. And at the end of the year, he makes important decisions about his girlfriend and his life.
If this had been produced in the U.S. for an American audience, it would have been a piece of crap. Instead, it is a light and frothy contemplation about what it is like to be young, full of possibility, and totally unsure of what direction to take in life. All the characters are interesting. Even the idiots are affectionately presented.
Add to this the opportunity to see some famous Barcelona landmarks close-up (one of the main scenes takes place at the Cathedral!) and you have a real winner.
And it doesn’t hurt that the day before I saw this movie my wife and I saw our college student son off to Spain for a semester, either…