Mostly Martha

December, 2002, Comedy

Directed by:Sandra Nettelbeck

Starring:Sergio Castellitto, Martina Gedeck, and Maxime Foerste

The only puzzling thing about this movie is its title. Here's a lovely German comedic love story that surprisingly wraps its characters in layers of sobering personal foibles rather than more typically screwball ones. 

Martha is the chef at a small but highly regarded restaurant in Hamburg, given to a dictatorial style in her kitchen and painful loneliness outside it. When her sister dies in an auto accident, Martha reluctantly takes charge of her 10-yr old niece while trying to track down the girl’s long absent Italian father to come and rescue his daughter. In the meantime, a very pregnant sou-chef leaves to have her baby, and the restaurant's owner impulsively hires a scruffy Italian male replacement as nonchalant as Martha is uptight. Guess who the niece warms up to? Guess what happens when her father shows up?

 Well, you'll be wrong more often than you're right, and the depiction of Martha's mounting stress and isolation carries more dark edges than you'd expect from a comedy. But see it for some wonderful scenes of life in a first-class kitchen, and for the plot's resolution, which is more nuanced and less predictable than most entries in this genre.

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