Like Water for Chocolate

PhotobucketA young woman is forbidden to marry the man she loves by her domineering mother. Mamá Elena insists Tita de la Garza honor a timeworn tradition which dictates the youngest daughter must not marry so she may care for her aging mother instead. Established Mexican character actor Alfonso Arau (The Wild Bunch, Romancing the Stone) directs this adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s debut novel. The two were married at the time. The title comes from a Latin American expression. In these countries, hot chocolate is made with water instead of milk. The phrase refers to someone who has reached their boiling point, in this case it could refer to anger, but also repressed sexuality. Tita is like water ready to be used for hot chocolate.

This drama became one of the biggest foreign language hits ever in the US and it’s easy to see why. It has all the attributes of a glossy Hollywood romance: beautiful cinematography, lush music, sensational soap-opera storyline. It’s melodramatic and touching. The main difference – the action is set in Mexico and takes place in the past (1910 to 1934). Food is a recurrent theme as Tita is at her best when cooking. Her dishes have the ability to create emotions in the one who partakes of them. Those feelings correspond to what Tita was experiencing when she prepared them.  This blending of magical elements with the real world gives narrative a whimsical tone that is reminiscent of a Grimm’s fairy tale. It’s incredibly effective. The combination has a dreamlike quality that is both fanciful but also realistic.

What makes the picture so compelling is the appeal of our central heroine. Actress Lumi Cavazos is gripping as Tita. By keeping her emotions bottled up, her meals are essentially the only way she has to express herself. On the surface she seems passive at first, but she remains a fundamentally passionate individual. Her story is rather epic in scope and the many people that she meets along the way are involving. The relationships with her overbearing mother and her true love Pedro, are affecting but so is her relationship with Dr. Brown, her sister’s obstetrician. If there’s one thing a romance needs is heart and Like Water for Chocolate has that in spades.

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7 Responses to “Like Water for Chocolate”

  1. I always enjoy watching this. The mother is so vicious. The romance and tension is brilliantly portrayed by the actors.

  2. Saw this a long time ago, but I distinctly remember two sequences: when Tita cries into the cake batter and everyone gets sick and when she cooks the chicken (or quail, I think) with rose petals and her sister goes crazy with horniness! haha

    • Yes! Tita’s older sister Gertrudis becomes inflamed with lust and has to leave the house. After getting all steamy in a shower she meets a revolutionary soldier and gets intimate with him on the back of a horse. It’s rather ludicrous the way it’s filmed actually.

  3. I haven’t seen this one yet, but I have heard of it. I did not know that what you mentioned was the figurative meaning of the title; I always thought it had something to do with trade. Fantastic review!

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