The Taste of Things (2024) | Review

Food and acts of servitude are the love language of The Taste of Things, a wonderfully crafted film with a demandingly deliberate pace.

taste of things poster
Source: The Movie Database

Synopsis: A romance blossoms between a gourmand and his chef in 1885.

Director: Tran Anh Hung
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Benoît Magimel, Emmanuel Salinger, Patrick d'Assumçao, Galatea Bellugi

Food and acts of servitude are the love language of The Taste of Things, a wonderfully crafted film that your experience of will hinge on one thing alone: how much do you enjoy the craftsmanship of food? If you delight in studious preparation and detailed explanations of the transformative process of creating a meal, then you will find this film enriching. If not, there will be far too little of anything else to make your experience worthwhile.

Stories with a focus on food have been raising blood pressure as of late. Between The Menu, Boiling Point, and TV's The Bear, it's easy to think that kitchens are zones of tension and stress. This makes The Taste of Things a welcome antithesis of pace. Long (and I do mean long) sequences of cooking are filled with gorgeous sound design instead of a score. Meats crackle and pots bubble to no eat. Once the food reaches the table, this continues as cutlery delicately rings out, pastries crunch, and diners appreciate their food with undeniable glee.

There is an incredibly inviting glow rendered over the kitchen as Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) and Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) are at work. This is particularly effective when the colour is drained from the same room later in the film. However, the time between entering the house and any interesting conflict or tension being mixed into the story is demanding. When characters aren't eating, they're complimenting the food. When they aren't cooking, they're waiting to be fed. Food is not their primary language, but seemingly their only language and I found myself begging characters to have a conversation about anything else as a change of pace.

Source: The Movie Database

A nuanced romance between Eugénie and Dodin is played well by the actors – the kitchen is all business between the two and once they stop and share a table, they exchange delighted smiles and caring looks – however, it does not develop well in the runtime afforded it. Eugénie's health is quickly signposted as the oncoming source of disaster and as a tender 20-year relationship finally reaches its moment of action, it's disappointingly easy to see where everything is going. Again, if you can settle into the luxurious and almost meditative scenes of cooking then you'll be carried through these story beats well. Alas, I wasn't.

The Taste of Things simply speaks a different language to me. Deliberate in pace and narrow in focus, this is all about characters communicating through the act art of cooking. I'm not entirely soulless and I did genuinely feel what Eugénie and Dodin had for each other, but I wish their world was expanded. In a movie like this, the food is naturally going to be excellent and I could only take so many secondary characters smugly complimenting themselves and their culinary exploits when that is the only environment I see them in.