Mostly Martha (Bella Martha)
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I’ll admit that I regularly judge a DVD by its cover. It may not be the right way to go about selecting a movie to watch—and it doesn’t always work as well as I’d like—but it’s often just the way things happen. And that’s how I found Bella Martha (or Mostly Martha in English). The cover compared it to Chocolat, a film that I absolutely loved—so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with something similar…

Mostly Martha stars Martina Gedeck as Martha, a perfectionist whose life revolves around her job. She’s the head chef of a restaurant where the staff works hard and the customers gush with compliments (and those who dare to complain are given a severe tongue-lashing by the obstinate head chef). Even in Martha’s weekly therapy sessions, she talks about nothing but food. And she’s always so busy cooking that—despite her obviously lonely existence—she has no time for anything else.

All that changes, however, when Martha’s sister is killed in an accident, and Martha is left to care for her stubborn eight-year-old niece, Lina (Maxime Foerste). While Martha is struggling to adjust to taking care of a child, her boss hires an eccentric new Italian chef, Mario (Sergio Castellitto), whose presence in her kitchen makes Martha feel all the more threatened. But, together, Lina and Mario teach Martha that it’s okay to open up and accept others into her life.

Mostly Martha is a German romantic comedy—though it’s not heavy on the comedy, like many American romantic comedies. Since it’s basically a chick flick (yes, they do make fluffy chick flicks in different languages), it’s not a particularly moving film. And it’s pretty predictable (Martha hates Mario when they meet—can you predict what happens? I can…). But it’s a good film anyway. The characters are lovable, despite (or perhaps because of) their quirks—especially Mario. And while the film isn’t as visually beautiful as Chocolat, there are a number of similarities—including some breathtakingly sensual scenes (isn’t it amazing how sensual food can be?).

It may not be the perfect film, but if you loved Chocolat—and you have a penchant for the occasional chick flick—you’ll find that Mostly Martha is mostly marvelous.

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