“A lot of testosterone flying about but that’s kitchens for you”
Louise Brealey really does seem like she’d be a brilliant friend, having navigated the potential pitfalls of starring in a hit TV show to forge a fascinating career as an actor and playwright and being a wonderfully, refreshingly honest presence on Twitter. So I was more than happy to take in her recent film role in Delicious, an indie Brit-flick from 2013 written and directed by Tammy Riley-Smith, available on DVD and also on iTunes.
It’s an admirably spiky little thing, diverging from its apparent rom-com/family reunion beginnings into something altogether darker, a contrasting layer of sharp lemon under the sweet meringue if you will. So handsome Gallic chef Jacques arrives in London looking for a job and his biological father, conveniently finds both in the same restaurant and when he’s offered a flat-sitting arrangement, meets an intriguing young woman Stella who is living one floor down.
But nothing is quite as easy as that, right down to the rain that pours as Jacques disembarks at St Pancras. Though clearly talented in the kitchen, his training is not so much the cordon bleu he claims as convict cuisine and Stella’s reticence is rooted in deep emotional problems that manifests in bulimia. The film builds to a trickily weighted climactic scene where Nico Rogner’s highly charismatic Frenchman decides to help Brealey’s superbly brittle Stella by cooking her the best meal she’s ever had and essentially forcing her to eat it…
Riley-Smith just about pulls it off – her two leads are blessed with oodles of charm and a palpable connection that smooths over what might otherwise have been (and perhaps still is) a questionable plot device. Supporting roles have also been astutely cast, offering their own little thrills. Adrian Scarborough’s profanely capricious head chef is good fun (and I loved getting to see the younger pictures of him in the photo album) and any film that has Sheila Hancock as a kindly neighbour referring to herself as a “wrinkly old duffer” deserves plaudits.
Both parts could perhaps have been developed a little further to allow both actors more room to shine (likewise Nicholas Rowe and Finty Williams have brief shining moments as colleagues in the kitchen) but as it is, they allow the film to set its focus firmly on Jacques and Stella and their quirky pseudo-romance. The film looks beautiful, shots of London elegantly framed and the soundtrack is cracking, Michael Price’s score blending well with Cicero Buck’s delicately crafted songs. Well worth watching.