As is the case with many novel adaptations, I’m sure this film is nowhere near as good as the book. However, I haven’t read Joanne Harris’ novel – yet. It’s sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get through my towering pile of books before I can get near it. So I can only comment on Chocolat the film.
As a chocoholic, I was always going to enjoy at least one aspect of this film – the chocolate, of course. But it turns out that I enjoyed the whole thing. The story begins when a single monther and her young daughter move to a village in rural France. The mother is somewhat of a free spirit. The mayor of the town goes out of his way to introduce himself, hoping to welcome the young family to the area. However, on discovering that the woman is not, in fact, a widow and has never been married – therefore having an illegitimate child, he changes his mind. He immediately takes a dislike to Vianne and her daughter and does his best to make them feel unwelcome in the area. Vianne, however, is used to this attitude and carries on with her business as though nothing is happening. Her business, of course, is making chocolates. She has rented an empty shop and immediately sets to work transforming it into a beautiful chocolate shop.
It causes further bother when it transpires that Vianne will be opening her shop as soon as she has finished work on it, which means it will be during Lent. Not a religious woman herself, this doesn’t matter to her in the slightest. But it puts the mayor’s back up even further, especially as he suspects the villagers will break their fast without too much trouble given the tasty treats which are readily available. As time passes, Vianne’s good-nature and even better chocolate wins the villagers round – they are soon going to her for their favourite treats quickly come to realise that her circumstances and religious beliefs do not make her a bad person. She makes some very good friends and only a select few remain determined to get her out of the area for good.
Ever the control freak, the mayor ups his game and gets the young priest on side to preach about how evil comes in many guises, however clever. By some strange coincidence, those who make chocolate are also amongst those who could be posing as the devil. Some of the townspeople believe the words and avoid Vienne – but others take no heed and continue to be friends with her. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when a group of Irish river drifters arrive – causing further havoc in the town. Vianne, as always, is the first to go and offer friendship and assistance, to the further rage of the mayor. The arrival of the drifters sets off another chain of events which result in changing the lives of some of the villagers forever.
Overall, this was an enjoyable film. I found it difficult to follow all of the names of the characters because they’re French, but the plot itself was interesting and easy to follow. It’s a really lovely film about a woman who learns not to care what people think about her and her situation and to persevere, knowing that her kind spirit will win out in the end. That, lots of chocolate, warmth and a sprinkling of love make this a great film for a night in – especially if you’re a chocoholic!