BASED on British chef and food critic Nigel Slater’s autobiography, the movie Toast is a charmer. The film is about Slater’s childhood years, till he reaches 16, and it’s chock-full of food — roasts, pies and cakes.
Young Nigel (Oscar Kennedy) likes good food and good cooking, probably because his mum (Victoria Hamilton) is the kind who would boil an unopened can of whatever, then serve the contents as his meal. Yes, that’s how it is for those who couldn’t be bothered to cook, and where eating out is too expensive, unlike in Malaysia.
Young Nigel seems to have loved his mother more for her fragility and loving demeanour than her cooking. He doesn’t get on with his dad (Ken Stott) but her death bonds father and son.
Along comes Mrs Joan Potter (Helena Bonham Carter) to clean the house. The boy can’t help comparing Mrs P’s ways to that of his late mother. Inevitable, and Mrs P comes up short. The father is attracted to Mrs P’s charms. She lives in a rundown council house, so she knows the middle-class gent is a fine catch in provincial Wolverhampton.
They move to the country, but soon, her common mannerisms grate on the growing Nigel (Freddie Highmore) and a battle royale starts for the affections of the father.
While Highmore, Stott, Hamilton and even Colin Prockter (young Nigel’s best friend Percy) bring honest acting to the screen, Carter steals the show with her heart-driven portrayal of the charwoman who can really cook. The dishes served in this film are rich fare, but no richer than Carter’s dancing in one show-stopping scene!
There are some touching moments in this coming-of-age tale, and some almost sadistic instances with stepmum Mrs P who cooks and cleans with a fiendish fetish.
Toast is more than a foodie lover’s film. While you’ll love the lemon meringue pie, which you can almost savour, and the music with Dusty Springfield, Toast is about following one’s dream. The final scene features the real Slater, which is a Proustian moment for anyone.
Be warned: don’t go hungry to this movie.
NOW SHOWING : Toast<br>
Directed by S. J. Clarkson<br>
Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Ken Stott, Victoria Hamilton, Matthew McNulty, Freddie Highmore, Oscar Kennedy<br>
Duration: 95 minutes<br>