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MOSTLY MARTHA

Germany, 2001 (MIFF 2002, International Panorama)

Director: Sandra Nettelbeck

Whilst she orders her life with the same regulation as she ordeis her kitchen, renowned chef Martha is not above bawling out a customer who thinks her foie gras overcooked. Equally passionate and a good cook, her boss cuts her slack. Martha's tidy world is rocked when tragedy befalls her and she takes in her eight year-old niece Lina, a girl as resolute and socially maladroit as her aunt. A second shockwave comes when her boss hires Mario, an Italian chef who charms the other kitchen staff. Meanwhile, Lina makes Martha frantic with her grumpiness and refusal to eat her food. At a crucial junction in her life, Martha must decide if she's willing to let her heart be warmed.

With Moslty Martha, writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck has managed the rare feat of merging melancholy with joie de vivre. The film's low-key comic elements lend themselves to subtle characterisations - complemented by understated performances all round - producing a remarkably complete portrait of Martha's character from every angle. An audience favourite at Toronto and Locarno Film Festivals, Mostly Martha is a romantic comedy with main course substance.

Sandra Nettelbeck (born in Hamburg, Germany, 1966) worked as an editor and writer for Premiere magazine before directing her debut feature Unbeständig und Kühl (1995). Her second feature Mammamia (1997) won the German Max Ophüls Award for best film and script. Mostly Martha is her third feature.

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