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The Food Club (Madklubben)

Peter Malone MSC  |  15 February 2021

THE FOOD CLUB (Madklubben), Denmark, 2020. Starring Kirsten Olesen, Stina Ekblad, Kirsten Lehfeldt, Troels Lyby, Michele Venitucci. Directed by Barbara Topsoe Rothenborg. 98 minutes. Rated M (Sexual references and coarse language)

What is the Danish for “Eat… Pray… Love… For three women in their seventh decade”? Apparently it is, The Food Club – there is quite a lot of food, quite a lot of love… but practically no prayer. However, we guess what this film will be like.

Just before the credits we are introduced to teenage girls joining hands, yelling out their Icelandic warcry and jumping into a pool. And who are these girls? Before we have time to wonder, we see them five decades (at least) later. Some quick sketches, set at Christmas, so that we get a quick introduction and see each of the women in her family context. There is Marie (Olesen), slaving away at accounts in her husband’s company, joyful at Christmas with her two sons and their families, her husband, Henrik, ominously looking glum and doing a lot of texting at the giving of gifts. Then there is Vanja (Lehfeldt), a widow for eight years tending her husband’s grave, then some glimpses of home with her daughter but, eagerly taking her dog, Miller (called after the early 20th-century American big-band leader Glenn) for a brisk walk. And then there is Berling (Ekblad), rather haughty in manner, finding it difficult to hold her granddaughter for more than a minute, not immediately a sympathetic character.

And the eating…? Her sons give Marie a gift of a week’s cooking course at a hotel in Italy. Because of the difficulties with Henrik, and despondent with unpleasant discoveries, she offers to give her gift to her two friends who, of course, persuade her to go with them. So, away from cold Denmark, into sunny Italy, welcomed to the hotel by their host and chef, Alessandro (Venitucci). The other guests are a middle-aged couple who exercise, diet and fast (very trendy), and a landscape gardener, Jacob (Lyby), who loves Italian food and wants to learn how to cook it.

While Vanja and Berling are rather one-note characters (although those one-notes are interesting in their way, so perhaps one and a half note characters) it is the complex Marie who is the focus of attention.

But, the consequences for women who have an Eat… Pray… Love experience mean that there will be challenges to all their lives – for Marie to question whether she will break free or not, for Vanja to decide if she will respond fully to her attraction to the landscape gardener, for Berling to decide whether she will admit her age and babysit for her granddaughter.

Moments of cheerfulness, moments of kitchen versatility, moments of pain, which will appeal to, especially, a women’s audience, but not exclusively, and for older audiences to check out comparisons between their lives and the conflicts and challenges of Marie, Vanja, Berling.

Reset Collective
Released 4 January
Peter Malone MSC is an associate Jesuit Media

 

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