“Being normal is overrated,” a young boy’s friend assures him. “You’ll probably turn out to be very interesting.”
He was right. British chef and food writer Nigel Slater tells his own story in “Toast”. His mother was a terrible cook. When he suggested they try fresh produce, she explained that they were better off with canned food because you don’t know where the fresh vegetables had been. She would boil the food in the can and if it came out especially badly they would have toast for dinner. She loved Nigel with all her heart and he adored her. But he never felt close to his gruff father (Ken Stott). And then his mother died. Nigel correctly discerned that the cleaning woman his father hired (Helena Bonham Carter) was determined to be promoted to lady of the house. She and Nigel were engaged in an all-out war that was tragic but darkly comic because the battlefield was the kitchen.
This film was produced for BBC television and it assumes a familiarity with British dialect and culture that may be confusing for American audiences, even the Masterpiece Theatre-loving Anglophiles. And some family members have disputed the accuracy of Slater’s portrayal. It spends too much time on the early part of Slater’s life (played as a child by Oscar Kennedy) and not enough on his teen years (played by Freddie Highmore). The tone keeps it engaging, though, because Slater’s point of view does not get maudlin. When his stepmother is portrayed as a grasping shrew we understand that it is through his eyes as an unforgiving teenager and, as the last scene makes clear, that he recognizes that living well is the best revenge. Except for maybe being the one to tell the story.
Parents should know that this movie has some strong language, some sexual references, a tender same-sex kiss, a sad death of a parent, and tense and unhappy family confrontations.
Family discussion: Who is the best cook in your family and how did that happen?
If you like this, try: Some other foodie movies like “Mostly Martha” and “Babette’s Feast”