The Food Club – movie review

In this low key Danish/Italian co-production, shot largely in Italy, three women in their sixties rediscover love and the joy of life. The Food Club (aka Madklubben) is a gentle film about friendship, getting old, getting to rediscover yourself and the joys of life, sex and good food.

Friends since adolescence, Marie, Vanya and Berling have grown apart in adulthood, as now each are undergoing their own midlife existential crises with work, families, their own complicated lives, and other problems.

Marie (Kirsten Olesen) works as an accountant for her husband Henrik (Peter Hesse Overgaard), but at Christmas she discovers he’s been having an affair. She has been given the gift of a week’s cuisine tasting course at an Italian venue in picturesque Puglia. Because of Henrik’s infidelity she decides not to go. Instead, she offers it to her friends. Vanja (Kirsten Lehfeldt) is still grieving over the death of her husband eight years earlier and seems to be having trouble moving on with her life. The more liberated Berling (Stina Ekblad) enjoys the single life and is trying to hold onto her youth, but seems aloof, cold, and emotionally distant from her family, especially her new granddaughter.

But Vanja and Berling convince Marie to come along with them, hoping that it will distract her from her obsession with Henrik’s infidelity. The trio are welcomed to Italy by the dashing and friendly Alessandro (Michele Venitucci), who is their host and chief instructor. There they also meet a younger European couple on holiday and Jacob (Troels Lyby), a landscape gardener who has come on the course to learn how to cook. Vanja is attracted to Jacob, but Marie keeps throwing herself at him much to Vanja’s frustration and annoyance. Berling meanwhile seems to be self-absorbed. This creates some tension between the three that threatens their friendship, but ultimately brings them closer together.

We’ve seen this sort of life-affirming drama celebrating older people before, most notably with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its ilk, but, lacking the star power of that film, The Food Club seems to also lack that same broad appeal. There are plenty of scenes of cooking and glimpses of the sundrenched Italian landscape, shot nicely by cinematographer Mattias Troelstrup, that will certainly appeal to audiences of a certain age.

The cast comprises of three veteran Scandinavian actresses who bring some light and shade to their various characters.

The film has been directed in leisurely but empathetic fashion by Barbara Topsoe-Rothenborg, who has mainly worked on television comedies during her long career. This is only her fourth feature. However, the script written by Anne-Marie Olesen (Black Widows) lacks depth or real drama, and the conflicts lack any real sense of urgency. There are some gentle laughs at the expense of the women and their failing faculties as a result of growing old. But sadly, there is an air of predictability about the whole affair.

Greg King

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