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Director: Lasse Hallstrm
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, et al. Length: 101 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment

A movie for the senses, “Chocolat” invites you to languish in small pleasures, express your goodness, and find simple ways to make meaningful connections with the world around you.

The wind blows, unusual things happen. The movie starts with a blowing wind that signals the arrival of two visitors to a small French village, Vianne and her daughter, Anouk. Wearing red capes, they stand out from the grey winter sky and closed up homes. Metaphorically, the town is its own kind of grey. The townspeople are buttoned-down types used to their routines and wary of anything new or different. Vianne, a graceful and generous woman, rents a storefront and the apartment above it, and opens, to the chagrin of the mayor, a chocolate shop, right as Lent is beginning. This act on Vianne’s part, authentic and courageous for sure, sets her up for stares and lectures, and she ends up being the subject of Sunday sermons. Yet she is undaunted. It is only the beginning!

Vianne seems to have a magical way of knowing exactly what people need. Little by little, the townspeople begin to visit her shop, and once they are inside, Vianne offers them some sweet delicacy they can hardly refuse – and conversation to go with it. Her chocolate has a magical effect on a couple’s marriage; rekindles an estranged relationship between a grandmother and her grandson; offers hope to a battered wife; and ultimately reveals to the oh-so-perfect mayor his deep desire to be human. Vianne’s gift to others is grace and inclusion. She sees their good and their potential, and as a mirror to them, helps them find their own sense of what is right for them.

This movie has stories within stories. It lends itself to myriad conversations, such as what happens when groups are excluded, or how the legacy of the past keeps us trapped in an unproductive story, or how there seems to be a part in each one of us that wants to play and feel joy, as the parish priest did, imitating Elvis with his broom as the pretend microphone.

 “Chocolat” is a good movie for coaches since in many ways, Vianne embodies coaching characteristics in her ability to accept all sorts of people, and she knows when to take a stand against evil. It is a good movie for clients in that we see what good can happen when we let ourselves find meaning through others, by giving and receiving, and by looking beyond our differences. And, ever since I watched this movie, I am so aware of the wind and wonder, when I hear it, what message it is trying to bring.

Click here for a coaching practice related to the theme of this movie.





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