Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A young man probes the past in Eric Khoo's family, food and feud movie, RAMEN SHOP

A sweet and homey family, food (and, yes, a little feud) tale, RAMEN SHOP offers a lot of can't-miss ingredients which hit their mark pretty damned close to the bull's eye -- if you don't mind a combination of food so delicious looking you can indeed nearly taste it, quite a bit of exposition and some sentimentality in both style and content. TrustMovies didn't mind and suspects you might not, either.

As directed by Singapore filmmaker Eric Khoo (shown below, of Be With Me), and perhaps written by him, too
(the IMDB lists no actual writer on the film), Ramen Shop is the story of a young man named Masato, who is distant from his chef/ramen shop-owner father (his mother died years ago) and who, more than anything else, desires to learn how to make a really delicious soup, just like his family members made in the old days when everyone was alive and (relatively) happy.

To this end Masato (played with great charm and feeling by Saitoh Takumi) leaves Japan for Singapore and some family members he has not seen for years. The movie becomes a kind of "food" journey, in which not only do we get to see the food made and eaten but we also hear about how to make it. This verbal/visual combination works surprisingly well in helping us understand what's so special about the menu here. Granted, you cannot actually taste the food, but I think Ramen Shop comes as close in this regard as any movie I've so far seen.

The acting ensemble assembled by the filmmaker proves every bit as good as Mr. Saitoh, too. Each member brings such caring and grace to the proceedings that you are immediately pulled in to the story and the emotions it conjures.

Discovering a trove of family momentos is the key to sending our boy off to Singapore and to the new friends and old family members he encounters there -- who, in addition to all the cooking, more than make the trip worthwhile.

Mr. Khoo flips back and forth between past and present  and does this cannily enough that we soon easily follow along. During the film's second half, we get a history lesson regarding Japan and Singapore during World War II -- which serves to explain the events that still divide this family.

Ramen Shop offers an unusual kind of culture clash, one that is finally put to rest via food. Yes, it's sentimental as all get-out, but the movie also hits its mark, over and over again, with surprising accuracy. I suspect that by the finale you'll agree that the words, "Let's eat!" have seldom been uttered with such meaning and resonance.

From Strand Releasing and running a crisp 90 minutes, the film opened in New York City last weekend (at the IFC Center and The Landmark at 57 West) and will open in another 20-odd cities across the country during April and May. Click here then scroll down to click on Screenings to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters. (Here in Boca Raton, it will tentatively open May 3 at the Living Room Theaters.)

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