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Mostly Martha
(In German with English Subtitles)

Sandra Nettelbeck
Starring: Maxime Foerste, Sergio Castellitto
Length: 106 minutes
Rated: PG
Studio: Paramount Home Theater

I really liked this film. It’s about the power of love, acceptance, and how that can lead to openness and eventually, in Martha’s case, transformation.

Martha – single, a chef in a chic restaurant in Germany, a purist chef, consumed by her work, no life outside of the restaurant. Her boss worries about her mental balance and makes therapy a condition of her job. Martha talks to the therapist only about cooking.

Lina – Martha’s 8 year old niece, who lives with Martha after Lina’s mother (Martha’s sister) is killed in an auto accident. Grief stricken, wanting to be with her father, whom Martha has never met, Lina refuses to eat. Of course, food is the only thing Martha knows how to give. And she knows nothing about kids, it seems.

Mario – Italian sous-chef hired by Martha’s boss when Martha is called away due to her sister’s auto accident. Martha is cold, distant, and angry that Mario is in her kitchen. Mario is light, wonderful, slightly irreverent, plays music, has everyone in the kitchen smiling, except Martha.

Lina – starts coming to work with Martha in the evening, and one evening, after eyeing Mario’s pasta, picks up his plate and finishes it. (Thank goodness the child finally ate something!) Mario takes time with Lina and Lina starts to unfreeze. Martha does not.

Martha – continues to have showdowns with customers and with Mario, who decides he will leave after he tells her he has no designs on taking her job…and in the end, Martha decides he ought to stay.

Lina – arranges for Mario to cook dinner at Martha’s one night. They all eat on the floor and have a good time.

Martha – freaks out that Mario’s zealous cooking completely messed up her kitchen (and guess what, he is messing up her tight, tight life); but is starting to warm up.

Mario – keeps on being present and kind to Martha.

Guiseppe – Lina’s father, comes to fetch Lina and take her to Italy to be with him, his wife, and their children.

Therapist – starts trying Martha’s recipes.

Martha – missing Lina, asks Mario for help, and …well, you’ll have to see the rest of the film to learn what happens. Let’s just say that Mario and Lina may just be the recipes Martha needs.

Questions for Reflections

  1. When has someone come into your life who offered a breath of fresh air, a new way to see the world, new hope? What was the effect on you?
  2. In your workplace, do you have a Mario? Someone who makes people smile, who doesn’t take himself too seriously, who can laugh at himself? How do you value this person?
  3. What, in the past, has helped you past your resistance to others?

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