Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate) is a delightful film from 1992. Watching it is a wonderful way to spend an evening. The screenplay is based on a novel by Laura Esquivel. I was given the DVD by someone from work and had never gotten around to watching it until a couple days ago. The film is rated R for sexuality.
It is the tale of a Mexican family living near the Texas border in the early 1900’s. Tita (Lumi Cavazos) is the youngest of three daughters. Her mother, Mamá Elena (Regina Torné) tells her that she will never marry and must care for her as long as she lives. Her mother is a domineering woman and not likable at all. They live on a farm and appear to be well off, although Tita is kept busy in the kitchen and in meeting her mother’s unreasonable demands.
Tita and Pedro Muzquiz (Marco Leonardi) have fallen in love, but when Pedro is denied her hand in marriage, he agrees to marry her sister Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi) just so he can be close to Tita. This is a setup for all sorts of troubles, and Tita takes out her sadness in the kitchen. She is a fantastic cook and baker having been trained by her beloved Nacha (Ada Carrasco). Tita also expresses her joy and love for Pedro through her cooking, just one of many exquisite moments in the film, and a fine example of magical realism in a story. The quail in rose petal sauce she prepares looks incredibly delectable, especially from the reactions the diners give while savoring it.
The film is subtitled in English, but since some of the action takes place in Texas, most notably with a physician, Dr. John Brown (Mario Iván Martínez), who is in love with Tita, some dialogue is in English. The film is noted for being erotic, and it is erotic in some places early on, but in scenes where they are eating, not ones involving sexuality. I am surprised this film wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards, but it did receive a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes that year.
Laura Esquivel was married to the director of the film, Alfonso Arau. It must have been a wonderful experience for them making this film together. Laura wrote the screenplay. The actors are all suited to their roles, and the themes of love and obligation to family, and the failings of many of the family members in faithfulness to their chosen ones in marriage, is a familiar one. The third sister, Gertrudis (Claudette Maillé) is a beautiful and vibrant young woman who has an interesting life unfold for her. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil the surprises for you.
This is a movie I may just keep and not discard. It’s very rich in metaphor, and the magical realism that is just right in depicting the mysticism of the folk culture of that era.