Like Water For Chocolate AKA Como Agua Para Chocolate
R0 - United Kingdom - Arrow
Review written by and copyright: Rob Hunt (23rd August 2005).
The Film

Like Water For Chocolate tells the tale of three sisters and their fortunes and misfortunes in love. Predominantly focussing on the forbidden relationship between the youngest sister Tita (Lumi Cavazos) and Pedro (Marco Leonardi) the story covers many generations of family life. Revolving around Tita, the point of view of the film is shown from her for the most part, except the beginning, the end and the narration. The main plot element at the beginning is that, as Tita is the youngest daughter of a (presumably) widowed woman, she cannot get married or have children; instead she must care for her mother until her mother dies. This family tradition has never been broken, and so she cannot be with the man she loves - Pedro. Pedro decides that the only way he can be close to Tita is to marry one of her sisters - but sadly the mother is all too aware of this and complications arise in many areas.

Directed by Alfonsu Arua from an adaptation of his wife's novel it is clear that he appreciates the story and tries hard to do it justice on the big screen. For the most part he succeeds, in my opinion, but there are annoying factors present - such as cross-cutting a heartbreaking moment with joyful music and dancing - an idea which ruined the emotion of the scene and ended up making the film seem slightly ignorant. Indeed it is this haste at moving the film forward swiftly which is it's ultimate downfall. A slow-burning and less over-the-top build up to the climactic finish at the end would have worked a lot better, and smoothened out some of the other problems present in the feature.

The acting by the cast in the film is very good indeed - with highlights being Ada Carrasco and Lumi Cavazos - most evident in the scenes of great emotion, including where Tita is comforted by Nacha (Ada Carrasco's character). The film has been shot as if it were an epic - indeed spanning 3 generations it could be seen as one - and as such has some beautiful cinematography. The colours used are more earthly and rich than colourful, and this adds to the raw intensity of some of the scenes. Interestingly it may have appeared much more grand in a 2.35:1 scope format, but the 1.85:1 ratio would probably give it some added realism. Sadly this DVD shows neither, but the 4:3 ratio does not hide the epic feel.

The music used to score the film is good, as is the editing, except in the jump cut from sorrow to happiness - where both the cut and the music were used inappropriately for the emotion of the moment. Other than this, they both work well together to compliment the film and serve to aid the telling of the story of Tita.

Video

Arrow have presented the film in a 4:3 ratio. I was annoyed about this, as the original ratio is not 4:3, but 1.85:1 - which would have looked good if anamorphically enhanced. As it is image quality is of an above average quality - but still displays specks of dirt and print damage. Sadly the image also includes burnt-in English subtitles, which was also disappointing. Higher marks would have been awarded if the film was presented the way the director intended, with optional subtitles.

Audio

The audio provided is the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. For the majority of the film the track is good, with minimal problems, but I was slightly disappointed in the scenes where a better 5.1 surround mix might have achieved a lot more. However, it gets the job done well, levels are balanced and dialogue is fairly clear.

Extras

The only extras available are the Theatrical Trailer (2:10) and a Photo Gallery (3:00). Both are interesting to watch once, but hold no substantial value to the package, which was slightly disappointing. In a time where Theatrical Trailers are often ignored on newer DVDs I was pleased to see that this one's was included, though.

Overall

Like Water For Chocolate is a unique film with an epic storyline. It is evident the director is passionate about the material he has adapted from, and this labour of love is a worthy accomplishment. Sadly the DVD is not really up to scratch, which is sad as Arrow have done very well on some of their other releases.

The Film: B+ Video: C+ Audio: B- Extras: E+ Overall: C-

 


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