Directed by: Cedric Klapisch
Written by:Cedric Klapisch
Starring: Romain Duris, Judith Godreche, Audrey Tautou, Cecile De France, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Bishop
Released: December 18, 2003
Grade: A

If you’re young and have ever wanted to travel or work in Europe, The Spanish Apartment is the must-see movie of the year.  I first caught the film back in August when it screened at the Brisbane International Film Festival.  So positive was the response, it was voted by the festival audience as their number one film.  Not bad when you consider it was competing against over 100 other feature films.  This praise has contributed to the decision of the Fox Searchlight to release the film nationwide in a select number of cinemas across Australia.

The story centres around Xavier (Duris), a 25-year-old French student who knows the time has come to settle down and find a full-time job.  Attending a job interview (which was arranged by his father), Xavier is told that with the rise of the European Union has resulted in an increased demand for foreign economists.  He suggests that Xavier study economics in Spain for a year and that a job at the company will be assured.

It’s his first time away from home and Xavier feels sad that he has left his mother and girlfriend (Tautou) behind in Paris.  His university course in Barcelona is being funded by a government scholarship program and he’s hoping to make the most of it although daunted by a language he hardly knows and a city that is completely new to him.  He meets a freshly married couple at the airport who are very helpful in offering him short term accommodation.  But the apprehension will soon be behind him and the fun’s about to begin.

Looking for apartments in the paper, Xavier finds the dream place.  It’s not a flashy residence but its home to five other students all looking to study hard and party even harder.  Each comes from a different country but there are no boundaries here.  Xavier’s gone from a life of predictable monotony in France to a life of enthusiastic pleasure in Spain.

The Spanish Apartment is a film which captures and enthuses on the screen all those emotions that cannot be put into words.  The trepidation of leaving home, the intrigue of other cultures, the complications of love, the importance of friendships and the invaluable qualities of true life experiences.  Writer/director Cedric Klapisch tells an honest story perfectly balanced against light hearted comedy and scene stealing one-liners.

The film features dialogue in not just English but also French, Spanish, Danish and Catalan.  Subtitles will guide you through so that none of the film’s spirit is lost.  It’s hard to believe Klapisch envisioned shooting a film with so many languages – it must have been a nightmare getting funding.  He’s no slouch in the director’s chair either.  He’s assembled a vibrant, youthful cast and uses well-chosen editing techniques (such as split-screens and fast-forwards) to enhance their performances.   He doesn’t appear until half way through the film but English actor Kevin Bishop steals every scene in which he appears as Wendy’s annoying brother, William.

I’ve often believed it’s best to see a film twice before one can give an accurate review.  At the first screening, you learn and at the second screening, you appreciate.  Having attended two sold-out sessions of The Spanish Apartment, I can fully stand behind my critique and judging from audience responses, I am not alone.