Like Water For Chocolate

Like Water For Chocolate


Reviewed by: Martin Drury

Like Water For Chocolate is a visual anthem for food porn's disciples and Freud's wet dream. This is the film that proves that food, sex and love are intricately linked and that "transference" can occur between human beings and objects, so long as the object has been made with adequate love.

Tita (Lumi Cavazos) wishes to marry Pedro (Marco Leonardi), but tradition dictates that, as the youngest daughter, she must look after her mother. By way of expressing her sadness and anger, she channels her feelings through the food she prepares. Everything she creates in the kitchen carries her essence and forces those who consume her meals to mimic the effects of her feelings. If she is angry, those who drink her rose petal soup become angry. If she is sick, a marathon vomiting session ensues.

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"I think Pedro's gone off me," she says. "It might be because of my weight and flatulence".

Director Alfonso Arau should have used Laura Esquivel's novel as a guide and reconstructed its essence. Instead, like Anthony Minghella with Cold Mountain, he focuses on so many issues and so many concerns that the film looses its focus and is denied continuity and credibility. One minute, it is concerned with the power of tradition in personal relationships, the next Pedro's love for Tita, after which the audience is introduced to an eccentric doctor and hordes of bandits with dodgy Mexican accents. The loss of focus is compounded by the fact that it is an hour too long. Just when you think it's safe to go outside again, they want to tell you about the cruel reality of childbirth in 1910.

The Spanish dialogue forces English speakers to pay attention to the white scrawl at the bottom of the screen. Fortunately, the subtitles match the vocal expressions in both sense and sentiment. On this film, we don't hear hours of Spanish, only to read, "I have lost my wallet. Oh no!"

Cavazos is stunningly sexy and proves herself an accomplished actress, as Tita attempts to please her entire family. The remainder of the cast look like extras from the new Zorro movie and it's difficult to take an Upstairs, Downstairs motif seriously on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Mexican-style, surrounded by a chicken coup, an outside toilet and a river. Here, poignancy rears its sweet head and a tepid, cliche-ridden film is realised.

There are some strong performances, but they all come from Lumi. Regina Torne portrays the mother, as a cross between Maggie Smith in a mental institution and the wicked queen in Snow White. If you're a single woman looking for love, you'll find it difficult to fall under the spell of Pedro. Leonardi makes Timothy Dalton appear charismatic.

This film devours your existence, as if it were little more than butcher's mutton. When the end credits roll, you'll want those precious moments returned to you.

Reviewed on: 08 Sep 2005
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Food becomes emotional for a dutiful, sex starved daughter during the Mexican revolution.
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Read more Like Water For Chocolate reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Alfonso Arau

Writer: Laura Esquivel, based on the novel by Laura Esquivel

Starring: Marco Leonardi, Lumi Cavazos, Regina Torne, Matio Ivan Martinez, Ada Carrasco, Yareli Arizmendi

Year: 1992

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico


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