Anyone who spent some of their college or grad-school years sharing a house with half a dozen other people will recognize the cozy bohemian squalor of L’Auberge Espagnole. This isn’t ”The Real World,” where well-groomed wannabes playact before the camera in sprawling designer digs they could never have afforded on their own. The seven scruffy, eager students in ”L’Auberge,” each from a different country in Europe, have crammed themselves into an old-world apartment in Barcelona. The tub is a scum pit, the kitchen table a trash heap of leftovers, and everyone is so on top of one another, getting stoned and hanging out, that they’re forced, ironically, to be gracious even when they’re arguing, which, of course, is most of the time.
The atmosphere of gentle communal chaos is authentic enough to become the movie’s dramatic center. Xavier (Romain Duris), who has arrived from Paris, is handsome and purposeful but all buttoned-up (his girlfriend back home, played by Audrey Tautou, is a petulant nag), and the house acts on him like a balm he didn’t know he needed. There are plenty of ”situations” in ”L’Auberge Espagnole,” and some of them are way too cute, but in general, the director, Cédric Klapisch, doesn’t over-hype what he’s showing. He lets Xavier’s year abroad unfold with the right wandering touch of pleasure, nostalgia, and wistful exploration.