Imagine if navigating relationships was as simple as following a recipe. Well, for the formidable chef Martha Klein (Martina Gedeck), the very concept sounds like a dream.
In Mostly Martha, we’re introduced to Hamburg’s culinary darling, who is seemingly at the top of her game – an honour that’s come at a hefty cost to her social life.
Martha is obsessed with food. When she’s not terrorising insolent diners who dare to question her culinary prowess, we find her on the therapist’s couch, musing over fancy fare.
Her precision in her approach to cooking has made her a leader in her field, but she fails to recognise how her meticulous ways are her undoing when it comes to relationships.
What’s more, we get a sense Martha isn’t wholly content with her lonely solitude, made apparent by her awkward attempts to reach out to her neighbour – only to recoil later on.
Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, her sister tragically dies in a car crash, leaving Martha with custody of her nine-year-old niece, Lina (Maxime Foerste).
Struggling to meet the demands of work and care for the youngster, all while grieving her sister, Martha’s boss hires a sous-chef, Mario (Sergio Castellitto), to ease the load.
Martha immediately rejects Mario’s jovial demeanour in the kitchen, which she considers an insult to her craft, but given their shared love of food, she reluctantly agrees to keep him on.
As the days and weeks go on, Mario slowly brings joy and laughter back into the sad kitchen and, more importantly, into the lives of Martha and Lina, whose relationship blossoms.
A pivotal moment in the film is when Martha finds out Mario’s “glorious” gnocchi – a dish which she criticised for its simplicity – has been added to the restaurant’s menu.
After probing her boss about why they should dish up the Italian staple, Martha is confronted by Mario, who gives her some home truths about the dish and her attitude.
“They have to be prepared with great care, that’s all,” Mario says. “With gnocchi you have to take your time. They tend to get tough and inedible if you don’t do your best,” he adds.
Make the meal, learn from the gnocchi
Browse gnocchi recipes at SBS Food
Watch 'Mostly Martha'
Sunday 30 August, 6:30pm on SBS World Movies
Monday 31 August, 7:30am on SBS World Movies
Tuesday 1 September, 1:30pm on SBS World Movies
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance
Director: Sandra Nettleback
Starring: Martina Gedeck, Maxime Foerste, Sergio Castellitto
Now streaming at SBS On Demand: