Jamie Skinner reviews The Taste Of Things: Cook Eugenie (Juliette Binoche) has been working for gourmet Dodin (Benoit Magimel) for over 20 years, but what will it take for the pair to make an official romantic relationship?

Cert - 12, Run-time - 2 hours 15 minutes, Director - Anh Hung Tran

Almost exactly four years ago the main focus of my review of DC’s underappreciated Birds Of Prey was the glorified snack which kicks off Harley Quinn’s newly single life. An egg sandwich from a greasy fryer was one of the best depictions of food to grace the big screen in quite some time. The Taste Of Things not only arrives as a challenger to this sequence, but brings with it a series of extended culinary sequences which will likely have Studio Ghibli seething with jealousy.

The opening twenty minutes largely focus on the preparation of multiple dishes for a multi-course meal later in the day. Little is said between the four bodies in the kitchen, most sound comes from the cooking which is unfolding and the occasional clatter of utensils. Even as the meal itself takes place the cooking continues throughout the day, still acting as the main focus. When asked why she didn’t join the gentlemen in the dining room cook Eugenie (Juliette Binoche) says that she was busy working. Assuring, however, that she experienced the food many more times as she spent time with each smell, taste, sound and ingredient. The sensory delight that this extended sequence provides is much the same for the viewer.

Food is a language between Eugenie and gourmet Dodin (Benoit Magimel). The pair have worked together for over 20 years and while it’s made clear that there’s more to their relationship there’s no official romance - despite Benoit having proposed over the years, now casually asking as the two sit outside after a long day working (and eating). Communication via the culinary arts is particularly shown in the second extended meal where not only do the roles change, but so does the tone.

Sound and vision are essential to the film and are excellently demonstrated by cinematographer Jonathan Ricquebourg and in the sound design (particularly foley artistry by Olivier Thys). The cooking process speaks for itself, passion and feeling washing across the central pairing as they enter the ‘autumn years’ of their lives - leading to dishes met with wonder, and envy, from the viewers. So much is said in the light, shade and volume of these sequences, allowing for an uncomplex narrative to have a complex set of feelings at the centre of it, particularly as the relationship develops at this specific point in time. Gently paced to allow for these unspoken dialogues to take centre stage while never feeling flashy or overindulgent, although perhaps slightly overlong in the closing thoughts.

The visual communication of cuisine gets across what can’t be verbally said by the central characters; thoughts and reasonings which are difficult to express. We understand the language early on, and even more so when it re-arises later in the piece with a much different style and tone. Brilliantly captured it’s easy to be brought into this world of fine dining when so much subtlety is mixed into the ingredients.

Jamie Skinner, four stars ****