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Mostly Martha Review

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A prima donna cook's life is already teetering on a knife-edge when she's forced to take over the care of her eight year-old niece and share her kitchen with an Italian sous-chef.

★★★★★

Having been left wanting by the likes of Woman On Top and Tortilla Soup, you'd be forgiven your misgivings on seeing the words "food" and "love" in the synopsis for this Hamburg-set rom-com. But Sandra Nettelbeck's debut feature is anything but a saccharine confection.

Indeed, its bittersweet flavour occasionally threatens to alienate us from Martina Gedeck's prima donna cook, whose life was already teetering on a knife-edge before she was forced to care for her eight year-old niece and share her kitchen with an Italian sous-chef.

Foerste and Castellitto prove able sparring partners, but, as the title implies, Gedeck dominates proceedings as she reluctantly comes to terms with her professional and personal demons. It's also to Nettelbeck's credit that she does so without resort to any sensational reformations or sentimental schtick.

The film stays close to its likeably flawed protagonist while poking fun at her control-freakishness to generally winning effect. Shame the soundtrack reveals the film's commercial aspirations so clumsily.