What's for Dinner, Mom? (2016)

I don't remember how I stumbled upon What's for Dinner, Mom? (Japanese: ママ、ごはんまだ? Mama, gohan mada?) but, unless it was some twisted horror movie, I was pretty sure it was about food and since I'm obsessed with food I decided to watch it.

The film tells the story of two sisters, Tae (Haruka Kinami) and Yo Hitoto (Izumi Fujimoto), and their mother, Kazue (Michiko Kawai). When Tae and Yo return to their old family house, Tae comes across a box containing letters and recipes of her mother who died twenty years ago. This brings back memories of how their teenage days were brightened by her mother's efforts to keep memories of their Taiwanese father alive through cooking them Taiwanese food.

Apparently based on the early years of Japanese singer Yo Hitoto —I said apparently because I couldn't find a lot of information about the film, which is not mentioned on the singer's Wikipedia page—, the story, although simple and rather predictable, is incredibly compelling and engaging. It is a heartwarming story that serves as a reminder of how important food is in our lives, that often love is the secret ingredient that makes a dish so special, and that most of the time we realise how much we loved someone and how much that person loved us only when they are gone.

The characters aren't particularly strong as they have little development and characterization but, just like the story, they are very compelling, and the credits go entirely to the cast. Michiko Kawai gives a beautiful performance as the mother, a strong woman who had to raise two daughters alone. She conveys love, the maternal kind, in a way that makes her portrayal moving and believable. The supporting cast provides solid performances as well.

What's for Dinner, Mom? does suffer a little because of its slow pacing though —because of it, the story takes quite some time to get started, it kinda feels dragged and ends up being a little tedious. But once you get into the story, you will be hooked until the end.

Ultimately, the film is far from being perfect but it handles the theme of food exactly as I was expecting it to do: it makes everyone, both supporting characters and the audience, feel like they are part of a family, sitting all together and sharing a meal. You can feel the warmth, the love, and, by the end of the film, you'll probably end up craving Taiwanese food, specifically pork's trotters.

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