Martha (Martina Gedeck) is a chef at Lido, a famous little restaurant in German town, her solo life orderly and functional, like her kitchen. Her life is thrown into chaos when first her 8 year old niece, Lina (Maxine Foerste) comes into her life, and then Mario (Sergio Castellito), an Italian chef is thrust into her kitchen by restaurant owner Frida (Sybille Canonica). Lina brings new demands and Mario brings new chaos into a life sheltered and studied. She copes badly with both, in different ways. But necessity is the mother of invention, and Martha discovers new aspects to her nature she never knew she had.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This acclaimed comedy drama is appealing for its refusal to fit easily into a simple classification or genre, combining several elements that give it dramatic tension and edgy interest. One of those elements is the ‘character blossoms’ story, in which a self contained protagonist opens up in response to new stimuli, usually involving men or children or both. Another is the ‘food as passion’ element, and the joy of Mostly Martha is that it stays true to its simple concept about Martha being a loner who blooms after being forcibly pushed into a relationship with a child and then a man. In lesser hands this could be weary material, but writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck has the good sense to keep things edgy and unromantic for long enough to hook our interest. There is also a fabulous performance from young Maxine Foerste, equal to any child actor anywhere. Martina Gedeck is also excellent, and Sergio Castellito is perfect as the warm, sensitive and jovial Italian chef who undoes Martha only to re-assemble her with better results. And make sure you have a good meal lined up after the film, because the cooking scenes will drive your palate crazy with desire.
Review by Louise Keller:
Stimulating our palates before stirring our emotions, Mostly Martha is a passionate and heartfelt story about food and love, resulting in the perfect recipe for life. The film begins on the psychiatrist’s couch where we meet Martha fantasising about exquisite combinations of culinary delicacies. An obsessive perfectionist, her passion and only conversation is food. That is, creating appetising, imaginative and delicious combinations in the kitchen to tantalise, savour and enjoy. Then our eyes see these delights for ourselves, as they are being created on the stove, and displayed on artfully decorated plates… Even before the opening credits are finished, I am positively salivating. But just as films like Eat Drink, Man Woman, Like Water For Chocolate and Woman on Top, food is used a sensual metaphor for love. The recipe is clear. Mostly Martha is a banquet for the senses. Writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck has beautifully interwoven themes of gourmet gastronomy with those of the heartstrings, serenaded by a lively and stirring jazz soundtrack. Martha may know how to poach pigeons, tantalise with truffles and know how to humanely kill a lobster, but she has no conception or sensitivity when it comes to relationships. Her daily precision and tidy routine is tossed out the window, as first Lina and then Mario enter her life. They are the catalysts for change. While Lina’s will to eat hinges on her emotional stability, the opposite could be said for Martha. But then Mario enters the kitchen, bringing with him spontaneity, rhythm, music and a contagious zest for living. Plus delectable Italian cuisine. From the heat of the kitchen to the cool of the cold room, their relationship is measured like mercury rising. The kitchen scenes are impressively shot and it’s not surprising to hear that the actors spent some serious time at cooking school with a master chef. Martina Gedeck is compelling as Martha, while Italian superstar Sergio Castellito brings vibrancy and plenty of je ne sais quoi. But our hearts are lost to youngster Maxine Foerste, whose vulnerability draws us to her, effecting some of the film’s most poignant moments. The film’s dramatic moments are never underplayed or compromised, and the ending plays out like a heavenly soufflé that rises and rises. Like a splendid meal, Mostly Martha dazzles by its vivacious, subtle and unexpected flavours, delivering an uplifting and satisfying reward for your hunger.
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MOSTLY MARTHA (PG)
CAST: Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellito, Maxime Foerste, Sibylle Canonica, Katja Studt, Oliver Broumis, August Zirner
PRODUCER: Christoph Friedel, karl Baumgartner
DIRECTOR: Sandra Nettelbeck
SCRIPT: Sandra Nettelbeck
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Bertl
EDITOR: Mona Bräuer
MUSIC: David Darling, Keith Jarrett, Arvo Pärt
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Thomas Freudenthal
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: June 13, 2003