Patisserie Coin de rue – Review
Tomura was once widely lauded as a legendary patissier, but some 8 years ago he inexplicably left the field. Since that time, Tomura has lectured at culinary schools and wrote a guidebook for pastry critics. Natsume is a young woman who travels from Kagoshima to Tokyo to find her boyfriend. Natsume fins a job at “Patisserie Coin de rue”, a pastry shop run by husband and wife tandem Yuriko and Julian. At “Patisserie Coin de rue” Natsume works with talented patissier Mariko and her fascinating creations. Meanwhile, Tomura is now a regular at “Patisserie Coin de rue” and his encounters with Natsume brings about changes in both of their lives.
Director Yoshihiro Fukagawa’s Patisserie Coin de rue—like most films pertaining to delicacies of food—presents an aesthetically delightful film concerning the intricate nature of that of a patisserie shop, a place where pastries and cakes are sold to the general public. But while on the surface the film may appear as simply a showcase for a plethora of appetizing sweets, it also offers a look into the livelihoods and personal dilemmas of the individuals behind the creation of such luscious mouthwatering pleasures. Displaying a thoughtful albeit fairly predictable tale of tragic loss coupled with overcoming that loss, Patisserie Coin de rue’s narrative doesn’t seem nearly as unoriginal as it should be due to its strong performances and endearing premise, a facet that is often times omitted from many films dealing with similar subject material—material that usually relies heavily upon aesthetic qualities over effectively contributing towards the development of its plot.
With such a focus on delivering a visually pleasing viewing experience alongside that of developing characters with meaningful purposes behind their artistic talent—or lack thereof in many cases—the narrative definitely trots over very familiar territory as seen in previous films. The premise of the outsider coming from abroad to learn and eventually shake up the establishment is certainly a common narrative focus for many films, but here that conventional focus is supported by a substantially strong cast—particularly that of the young and talented Yui Aoi. As the stubborn and naïve Natsume, a cake-maker’s daughter from Kagoshima, her character transformation towards being a dedicated and confident patissier is both modest and believable given the acting strength showcased by Aoi. Given her considerable aptitude as an actress, Aoi has certainly grown with each film she’s done and proves here yet again that she is one of the most accomplished young actresses within Japan. She essentially carries the film through her display of emotional expressions and enlivens every scene she’s in through her exuberant nature. One particular standout scene occurs between her and “Patisserie Coin de rue” head pattisier Yuriko (Keiko Toda) that showcases a rather tipsy Natsume affirming her need to change her life that is as funny as it is poignant towards her development as a character. Another notable mention would be that of Yosuke Eguchi’s portrayal of Tomura, a patissier who has left the trade due to facing a horrific accident years ago. Viewed more so as antagonistic in nature from the outset of the film, Eguchi’s delivers a powerful performance that truly brings some emotional leverage to the film’s rather conventional outlying. His and the remainder of performances are what provide the film a great deed of leeway in pushing aside the orthodoxies that our present within the script, in turn magnifying the triumphs and tragedies of the individuals within the film.
With the strength of the acting taking a prominent role in approaching the film’s rather generic narrative in a unique way, Patisserie Coin de rue is not without it faults. For all the scrumptious sweets and culinary mastery shown throughout the film, director and screenwriter Yoshihiro Fukagawa can’t refrain from eliciting many of the excessive tropes that have plagued this particular genre of film. With a sense of predictability that will certainly awash viewers accustomed to viewing similar films dealing with the likes of culinary expertise or even sports-centered tales of overcoming a superior team to win the championship game, the film delegates much of it final half towards the tried-and-true plot trajectories that have all but been overly utilized within films in the past. Whether this stems from its use of a “race against time to complete a major unforeseen challenge”- climax, to the brooding nature of some of the characters coming to a cheerful head by the film’s end, it’s all seen here. Fortunately, if it weren’t for the film’s strong casting, Patisserie Coin de rue would have easily become yet another film marred with a mediocre narrative that relied too heavily upon its exquisite visuals to satisfy viewers. While this approach can still be seen in certain respects towards the plot, Fukagawa isn’t simply reliant on these rather superficial elements of his story, a move that promotes the film’s premise from simply being about food—which is still retains to a degree—but also about the conflicted lives of the people involved in its creation.
Overall, Patisserie Coin de rue still remains a very strong film for the many reasons, even if it does suffer from a lack of originality. One thing the film does right is that it constructs a solid story around a rather conventional premise, therein making the film far more an exercise in acting forte than simply being about patisserie. Fukagawa enriches this common premise with a surprisingly affectionate flair that is carried through by the prowess of its actors, a move that saves the film from becoming too tiresome for its own good. This is especially seen in the case of Aoi, who gives a fantastic and spirited performance that is only hindered by the lack of a strong script. As such, the film never truly rises above the crop of films that deal with similar material, which is somewhat unfortunate for both Aoi and Fukugawa. But as a whole, the film still remains a promising showcase from the like of Aoi, and further establishes her as one of the premier actresses within Japan today. With its current script, Patisserie Coin de rue is one film that greatly adheres to a formulaic approach, but does so in such a way that it can still be considered a joyous and emotional look into the artistry of culinary extravagancy.
Author: Miguel Douglas
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