Just because you’ve been with someone a long time doesn’t mean that it’s either a good fit or meant to last forever. Good relationships are ones in which each participant invests in both themselves and their partner. Bad ones result from an imbalance (purposeful or accidental) and should result in dissolution in order for any of the parties to be happy, because each desires happiness, not to stay simply because of the investment of time, what society might think, or, yes, even if children are involved. Exploring this in a late stage coming-of-age rom-com hybrid is first-time feature length director Annika Appelin’s Food and Romance (Tisdagsklubben). Appelin’s approach follows the cookie cutter path blazed many times over while throwing in surprises that’ll keep audiences engaged from appetizer to the final course.
On the day that Karin (Marie Richardson) and Sten (Björn Kjellman) celebrate their 40th anniversary with friends and their daughter Fredrika (Ida Engvoll), things go from bad to worse when Karin discovers that Sten’s been cheating on her and, in the confrontation, he badly hurts his back. While Sten is in the hospital, Karin reconnects with charismatic old high school friend Monika (Carina M. Johansson) who drags Karin and their mutual friend Pia (Sussie Ericsson) to a cooking class taught by renowned chef Henrik (Peter Stormare). Karin always had a passion for cooking, but, in the class, it’s not only rekindled, it’s set ablaze, and that’s not the only thing (besides the food) getting hot in the kitchen.
Food and Romance is the kind of film you can mostly peg from the trailer. A couple has a falling out due to infidelity, one goes off to explore themselves, finds their spark, and just so happens to fall in love. It’s literally in the trailer. So what brings the audience is the cast, beginning with Richardson and (likely for American audiences) Stormare. Both have been working for years, each developing their own niche, and, frankly, the draw for this reviewer is seeing Stormare play a character that’s less maniac, dangerous, and comedic, trading guns, knives, and the pits of Hell for Asian cuisine, soft touches, and heartfelt conversation. Richardson is fantastic, never falling into tropes or stereotypes, presenting a full-formed adult who finds herself struggling between what she wants and what she thinks is expected. This results in much of the conflict of the film as she wants to pursue her passion, something Sten doesn’t seem to understand nor want to, with the pitfalls not being large dramatic acts but realistic blocks like finances, time, opportunity, and all the other things that prevent anyone from taking the chance on themselves. Richardson gives Karin a quiet seething while with Sten and an unabashed freedom when in the kitchen, offering a performance that anyone of any age can understand.
One of the ways in which Anna Fredriksson’s (Lilla Jönssonligan och stjärnkuppen) script keeps things interesting is that the film stays entirely focused on Karin’s perspective of things, never trading to see what Henrik or Sten are doing. In the entirety of the film, there’s perhaps one or two connected scenes that involve the other characters with whom Karin is not involved, even by proximity. This empowers the film to drill into the complexity of Karin’s situation without catering to the needs of others. With so much of the story being about Karin reclaiming herself, that the script follows this path is one of the many surprises in the film that eschews the typical rom-com which would try to afford equal time to both of the romantic partners. Other scripts would try to find a way to spend more time with Henrik, the new beau, or Sten, the husband, to find a way to offer some perspective other than Karin’s, and this script rejects that in favor of staying on her and her journey. In this regard, audiences may be disappointed to learn that Stormare is far more of a supporting player despite being on the poster. Don’t mistake this for meaning the actor or character is diminished; in fact, in line with the script, the actor beautifully presents someone who is there as a second to Richardson’s Karin (as it should be). Additionally, the way that the script plays on the mystery of who Sten’s lover is, the way it presents the budding affair between Karin and Henrik, and the arc between Karin and Fredrika is not only modern, it’s entirely healthy. It’s difficult for this reviewer to discern if this is a cultural difference (Sweden vs. the U.S.A.) or just the perspective Fredriksson and Appelin opted to explore, but there’s no doubt that the film is entirely feminist and positive in its presentation of love and sex.
If you’re in the mood for love, Food and Romance offers a fairly satisfying bite. It’s not as food-focused as films like Midnight Diner (2021), nor does it make food as sexy-looking as in Turning Red (2022), but it’s got the fun of The First Wives Club (1996) with a dash of Chef (2014) that leaves a pleasant after-taste in the conclusion. It’s comfort food that strives for little else but accomplishes just a bit more, resulting in satisfaction.
In select theaters and on VOD December 2nd, 2022.
For more information, head to Samuel Goldwyn Films’s official Food and Romance webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Categories: In Theaters, Reviews, streaming
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