Martha (Martina Gedeck) is a chef at Lido, a famous little restaurant in German town, her solo life orderly and functional, like her kitchen. Her life is thrown into chaos when first her 8 year old niece, Lina (Maxine Foerste) comes into her life, and then Mario (Sergio Castellito), an Italian chef is thrust into her kitchen by restaurant owner Frida (Sybille Canonica). Lina brings new demands and Mario brings new chaos into a life sheltered and studied. She copes badly with both, in different ways. But necessity is the mother of invention, and Martha discovers new aspects to her nature she never knew she had.

Martina Gedeck's performance is stoic rather than illuminating.

Martha, Martina Gedeck, is the second best chef in Hamburg. She's a perfectionist, rigid, prone to confronting patrons of the restaurant where she works when their standards drop. Her boss demands she see a psychiatrist but even her times on the couch tend to be obsessively gastronomic. Then tragedy strikes. Her sister is killed in a car accident and her eight year old niece Lina, Maxine Foerste, arrives to be cared for until her Italian father can be located. Lina is withdrawn, won't eat, Martha doesn't understand the meaning of the words 'care for'. And then as if Martha doesn't have enough to put up with her boss employs an Italian sous-chef Mario, Sergio Castellitto, who has a very different approach to food and life.

This is a film that should work better than it actually does. Castellitto is charming, you can have empathy with the obsession with food, but Martha is one of the most withdrawn, uncharismatic heroines of recent screen memory. She is, as a person, rather uninteresting. You wonder how anyone can be so removed from human connections. Martina Gedeck's performance is stoic rather than illuminating. You know where this film wants to go and you just regret that it doesn't quite manage to take you there.

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1 hour 49 min