Thursday, April 11, 2019

A movie about ramen and reconciliation

If you don’t like your movies seasoned with sentiment, you don’t have much reason to see Ramen Shop, a sweetened concoction that tells the story of a half-Japanese/half Singaporean chef who wants to unite two cuisines and also re-connect with the family his mother left behind when she moved with his father to Japan. Directed by Eric Khoo (My Magic, Tatsumi), the movie may delight foodies because it contains ample shots of ramen preparation, particularly a concoction known as pork rib soup. It helps to know that Singapore still harbors resentments about brutal treatment by the Japanese during World War II. Takumi Saito plays the chef who returns to Singapore after his Japanese father dies. He wants to connect with his late mother’s family, an uncle (Mark Lee) who knew him as a boy and a grandmother (Beatrice Chien) he’s never met. Angered by the loss of her husband to the Japanese, Chien’s character refused to speak to her daughter once she decided to marry a Japanese man who had been working in Singapore. Khoo aims for reconciliation, always a good thing, but the movie’s sometimes disorienting use of flashbacks diminishes the story as does a treacly musical score. Watching the painstaking commitment of ramen chefs to their craft makes for its own reward, although you’d probably get at least as much out of an Anthony Bourdain episode.

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