2h 1min, Drama, Romance,
A woman and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a small French village that shakes up the rigid morality of the community.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Joanne Harris (novel), Robert Nelson Jacobs (screenplay)
Stars: Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina…
Who hasn’t ever had the odd urge to indulge themselves in mountains of chocolate?
It’s Lent in the quiet French village in the 2000 film Chocolat, when Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), an expert chocolatier, and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) arrive just in time to set up a chocolate shop, earning the ire of Mayor Comte De Reynaud (Alfred Molina).
The mayor, who is largely responsible for the town’s strict adherence to tradition, remind the townsfolk that they have just entered Lent, a season of rigorous discipline and denial, and the townspeople do everything in their (albeit feeble) powers to resist the pull of the sweet confectionery.
But of course, they can’t.
Vianne gradually warms the hearts of the townsfolk — the bored housewife, a grumpy grandmother with diabetes, an abused wife who finds ‘new life’ by leaving her husband and helping Vianne out at her new shop, to name a few — who understand the value of both the pleasure of eating chocolate and the social environment it entails.
While the film has several sweet scenes and a heartwarming message, it creates some extremely closed-minded, unlikable characters in order to set up the binary required for the message to come across.
Eating, enjoyment and indulgence of chocolate is often portrayed in a positive light as a natural, inescapable aspect of human nature. On the other hand, the film repeatedly suggests that the denial of this indulgement is unhealthy, unreasonable and unnatural. The scene where the mayor “falls from grace” after reaching the breaking point is very suggestive of this point.
*2 hours of chocolaty goodness. Make sure to have a box of chocolates or a hot mug of cocoa on hand before playing this film; there’s something about watching a film about food that makes you crave it.