I recently rewatched my all time favorite feel-good movie, Chocolat.
I had first heard about it in college. The movie came up in a conversation I was having with my roommate and a guy I had a crush on. I said I hadn’t seen it, and they both promptly told me I really should. My crush went on to say, “You basically are the woman in the movie. I think you’ll like it.” Ha.
The movie stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina and Johnny Depp. Juliette plays Vianne, a single mother who has travelled quite a bit with her young daughter Anouk. She decides to open a chocolaterie in a small, rural town in France during Lent. It’s the year 1959, and the town isn’t exactly inviting to newcomers. Residents keep to themselves, go to church every Sunday, observe the Lenten fast, and do not take kindly to unwed women having children. While it doesn’t sound like much of a plot, the film is about changing beliefs, the role of religion, and feminism. It’s sweet and dreamy without being too saccharine. Design Sponge even did a Living In feature inspired by the film.
Side Note: There is a racial component that the film doesn’t get quite right, as Vianne is supposed to be half French and half Latina (her mother being from an indigenous tribe descended from the Mayans). I love Juliette Binoche, but there’s enough whitewashing in the film to pretty much eliminate race as a plot or character element.
I’m not quite sure why that guy back in college made the connection between me and Vianne. I hadn’t really traveled much, I didn’t have any children, and I don’t think he had ever even seen me cook. But I loved the association. How could I not? Vianne’s character is strong and independent, and she uses chocolate as a vehicle to heal a community. What can I say, I have an affinity for strong female leads with just a touch of magic. And when food is their wand of choice? Oh man.
More than just a favorite film, Chocolat is a movie I always circle back to when I need to be reminded that I’m stronger than I think I am. It’s comfortable, familiar and uplifting. It grounds me, and makes me feel like eventually things will get better.
So, if you find yourself without any idea of what to watch next, I highly recommend renting Chocolat. It might even inspire some sweet new projects in the kitchen!
If books are your media of choice, then definitely check out the original novel that the movie was based on, by Joanne Harris. I’ve actually just checked it out of the e-library myself, haha. That’s how much I love this movie.
And whether you watch it or read it, let me know what you think.