Berling, Marie and Vanja have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in late middle-age, they don’t catch up as often as they used to. Berling has a grown daughter with whom she has a strained relationship. Vanja is still mourning the death of her husband four years previously. But when Marie’s husband of more than 40 years suddenly announces that he is in love with another woman, the three friends decide to go away together.
Travelling to Puglia, Italy, the women attend a residential cooking school. Against the background of pasta, olive oil and wine, they try to come to terms with ageing, loneliness, and second chances at life.
Although very much in the vein of Exotic Marigold Hotel and similar films, The Food Club manages to lift itself above this popular sub-genre. Director Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg and screenwriter Anne-Marie Olesen have created a work of authenticity, intelligence and humanity. Olesen’s script is refreshingly grown-up, whilst retaining delightful elements of romance and humour. This is that rare thing: a respectful, sexy, unsentimental, portrait of the older woman. And the cast clearly revels in it.
Kirsten Olesen gives us a Marie who is thrown unexpectedly into having to find herself, subtly portraying the fear that lurks behind her actions. Stina Ekblad (Borgen; Wallandar) is hilarious as the mutton-dressed-as-lamb Berling, yet never allows her to fall into caricature. And Kirsten Lehfeldt delights as Vanja, a woman full of life, yet held back by grief. Supporting roles are also well cast including Troels Lyby as Jacob and Michele Venitucci as cooking teacher Alessandro.
Of course, Puglia delivers plenty of beautiful material for cinematographer Mattias Troelstrup to work with, alongside some food photography worthy of Michelin stars.
The Food Club is an absolute delight from the minestrone to the tiramisu: humorous, truthful and moving.
The Food Club opens tomorrow.