The Taste of Things * A Leisurely, Luminous Portrait Of Love, Culture And Cuisine, The Taste Of Things Is A Feast For The Eyes

The relationship between Eugenie, an esteemed cook, and Dodin, the gourmet she has been working for over the last 20 years. Growing fonder of one another, their bond turns into a romance and gives rise to delicious dishes that impress even the world’s most illustrious chefs. When Dodin is faced with Eugenie’s reluctance to commit to him, he decides to start cooking for her.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “A leisurely, luminous portrait of love, culture and cuisine, The Taste of Things is a feast for the eyes. It’s all about partnership through a shared passion, conveying feelings through fewer words and baked Alaska.” See his full review below.

The Taste of Things
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

A leisurely, luminous portrait of love, culture and cuisine, The Taste of Things is a feast for the eyes. It’s all about partnership through a shared passion, conveying feelings through fewer words and baked Alaska. With such deep themes and beautiful visuals, no wonder it’s France’s selection for this year’s Academy Awards.

The Taste of Things is a tough movie to summarize. It’s about so much more than its plot… but here goes. The film takes place entirely in a 19th century French manor, mostly in its warmly-lit, wood-accented kitchen and centers on the bonds between the characters. Dodin Bouffant (Benoit Magimel), an esteemed gourmet partly based on real-life gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin, oversees the meal, helps with the cooking and visits with his group of friends. His partner in the kitchen, Eugenie (Juliette Binoche), beams as she whips up dozens of French culinary marvels. They have two assistants, who seem more like daughters, the teen Violette (Galatea Bellugi) and her niece Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire). This scene unfolds each day for years. The film follows Dodin’s and Eugenie’s romance as it evolves from unspoken partnership to marriage to separation by illness, as well as how the younger members of the kitchen grow.

Director Tran Anh Hung opens The Taste of Things with a 38-minute long tracking-shot scene of the characters preparing an intricate meal with zero technology (it is the 1880s, after all), relishing every step of the way. I found it so satisfying to watch that I didn’t pay any heed to its length, though this may not be the case for some viewers, as the only lines said are “Put the veal in the oven” and a couple directions like this. I actually enjoyed getting to know the characters by watching what they do and observing their body language. There’s many more scenes like this one, none 38 minutes long, though. The film does have a bit of a languid pace, which takes some getting used to and might not suit some viewers’ taste (pun intended). The few events that happen outside the kitchen happen either in the bedroom, in the living room or the adjacent garden. On another note, Dodin and Eugenie’s relationship is a centerpiece of this film, and Magimel and Binoche as Dodin and Eugenie spellbind with their subtle yet powerful acting and palpable bond. Dodin has proposed to Eugénie a number of times over their 20 years together, to no avail. She says marriage is not right for them, because their bond is one of mutual respect and tenderness. The openness with which they discuss love is rare in modern films, as is their clarity on the matter — truly a mature romance. Additionally, the interactions between Binoche and Chagneau-Ravoire as Pauline are a delight to watch. Pauline’s passion for food is shown in a scene where she names each of the two dozen items in a dish and when she nearly cries after tasting a baked Alaska; Eugenie sees herself in the young girl and takes her under her wing. Jonathan Ricquebourg’s mouth-watering and skillful cinematography — tracking people as if walking beside them, sometimes peering into pots, and sitting at the same table as Dodin’s “suite” of friends — along with Tran Anh Huang’s careful direction adds an indescribable realism to the film. It’s a film that will make you hunger for more.

The Taste of Things is a film about indulgence — in food, in love, in family. It also shows viewers that truly powerful relationships are those that transcend labels and that are bound by shared love for one another and, in this case, a shared passion. It shows viewers that food is inextricably tied to love, life and joy. Be forewarned that the film does contain scenes with partial nudity and smoking.

I give The Taste of Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Taste of Things releases on February 9, 2024 in theaters and is an Oscar nominee. 

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