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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
This is a film about food as theatre and there is a lot on the menu. Carsten (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his wife, Maggie (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal) are setting the stage for the opening of their new restaurant. Carsten’s establishment is inspired by Copenhagen’s famed Noma but he’s also trained in Japan, returning with a fervent belief in the potential of the culinary art to cross the barrier between performance art and a religious experience. Maggie becomes his co-worshipper and during the early years of their marriage, their shared desire to see their restaurant succeed serves as the aphrodisiac that sparks their sex life. That is until Carsten’s urge to attain a Michelin star starts eclipsing everything else in his life.
Despite owning one of their city’s premiere restaurants, the one thing that has kept the couple from being truly satisfied and content is a much-coveted Michelin star and the prestige and recognition that accompanies it. They crave it, particularly Carsten who has let it drive him to the point of obsession.
Writers Christoffer Boe and Tobias Lindholm deftly interweave the complications of Carsten and Maggie’s fractured love story with the politics of Denmark’s culinary scene, although their fondness for flashbacks does require some concentration. The food prep is surgical in its precision, each leaf and slice almost too preciously placed to eat. Although seasoned with a healthy amount of food porn, this drama focuses more on the dissolution of a marriage but without casting judgement or taking sides.
The film also explores the impact of ambition at all costs on those that have to pay those costs. The film's timeline jumps around to afford audiences the ability to experience the joys of Maggie and Carsten's courtship but also the stresses that begin to pull them apart over time. It’s an intimate and absorbing analysis of a marriage brought to breaking point by the pressure of a shared ambition gone sour.