Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"The character is more sentimental, than exacting."

This is a fairy story.

Once upon a time, there was a village in France where nothing changed and everyone went to church on Sunday.

Copy picture

The people should have been happy because the village was untouched by modern life. What was missing was joie de vivre. They spent so much time worrying about being good, they forgot to enjoy themselves.

One dark and stormy night, a woman in a red cowl, with her young daughter arrives in the village, carrying her worldly goods. She rents the old patisserie and opens a chocolate shop.

The villagers are intrigued, even tempted, except the mayor who considers such a flagrant display of gastronomic delight a breach of rectitude.

The woman is only too happy to admit that her daughter is illegitimate and that she has no intention of going to church. She is beautiful, non-judgemental and charming, a hard worker and a good listener.

When the river gypsies drop by, she welcomes them, while the mayor institutes a hate campaign. In the end, the soul of the village is fought over the chocolate shop's message of inclusivity and compassion.

Everyone speaks English, which is a bit odd. Johnny Depp, guitar in hand, could have walked off the set of The Man Who Cried, his swarthy gypsy looks fitting naturally into the undemanding role of love interest.

Lena Olin overacts as the abused wife of the barman, who is befriended by the saintly chocolatier. Alfred Molina gives an inspired comic performance as the mayor and Judi Dench settles into the part of a grouchy landlady, who discovers the delights of letting go, with consummate ease. The character is more sentimental, than exacting.

Juliette Binoche is workmanlike. She goes about the business of creating a living person out of sugar and spice in a pragmatic manner. It is not so much difficult as rewarding. The itinerant chocolate maker represents freedom of the spirit, an attractive position for any actor.

Those who like safe movies, with pretty sets and pretty people, will find Chocolat uplifting. Those who prefer a sharper cut to their comedy might find the sweetness almost unbearable.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2001
Share this with others on...
Chocolat packshot
Fairy story about a woman who provides a breath of fresh air to a small French town.
Amazon link

Director: Lasse Hallström

Writer: Robert Nelson Jacobs, based on the novel by Joanne Harris

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Johnny Depp, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugh O'Conor, Peter Stormare, John Wood, Leslie Caron

Year: 2000

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database: