Two Many Chefs [La vida padre] — Spanish Film Festival 2023

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Juan Inchausti (Karra Elejalde) is a gastronomic genius running the family restaurant, Ataria, in Bilbao, Spain.  Juan’s reputation attracts all walks of society to dine at Ataria, where his two young sons hide in the kitchen and watch in awe as their father creates unsurpassed dishes and argues with their mother.  But events conspire to see Juan disappear for thirty years, and the boys grow up learning the business from their mother and eventually run it.  The elder brother, Ander (Lander Otaola), manages front of house, and Mikel (Enric Auguer), who has followed in his father’s footsteps and become a brilliant chef, is on the verge of earning the restaurant its third Michelin star.

At this moment critical to the restaurant’s opportunity for stardom, Mikel chances upon his father, Juan, whom everyone has believed dead.  But Juan, suffering from amnesia, rejects Mikel and the help he offers: Mikel can’t be his son: his son is only seven years old.

Informed by Dr Nagore Mondragón (Megan Montaner) that his father lives in 1990, and in spite of the many challenges that come with associating with him, Mikel determines to help his father and to make amends for what happened thirty years earlier.

Karra Elejalde gives a captivating performance as the irascible, tempestuous Juan, and Enric Auguer brilliantly portrays the emotional depth of the loyal Mikel, whose raison d’être springs from his love and admiration for the father he lost as a young boy.

There are one or two things in the film that scripting and directing could have improved.  These include want of any substantial role, except as Mikel’s love interest, for Megan Montaner’s character Nagore.  Called upon in times of crisis to manage Juan, Nagore does little more than stand around looking shocked.

As well, Mikel’s misjudgements in his relationship with his father stretch credibility, given what he has learnt about his father’s condition.

Despite such shortcomings and unexplained moments of self-indulgence by Juan, Two Many Chefs draws us in irresistibly to laugh as the winds of fortune toss Mikel’s life into the frying-pan.  His adventure in recovering his relationship with a father larger than his legend sees them both careening from one disaster to another until poignancy, spontaneity, and being in the right place at the wrong time pay off to the satisfaction of all.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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