Reviewed by Glenn Dunks
Food, glorious food! Some of the most sumptuous and involving films revolve around that most common of acts: eating. From Babette’s Feast to Eat Drink Man Woman; from Mostly Martha to Like Water for Chocolate, food has provided the backbone to so many great films from around the globe and now comes 18 Meals (18 comidas) from Spain, an omnibus film of criss-crossing stories divided into three segments; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like most films of its kind, there are some story strands that rise higher than others, but Jorge Coira’s debut feature, shot over nine days in Santiago de Compostela, surely has enough tasty portions to please audiences.
Amongst Coira’s expansive ensemble are aging street musician Edu (Luis Tosar), a pair awaking from a one-night stand (Xose Barato and Cristina Brondo), a businessman, Juan (Juan Carlos Vellido), visiting his closeted homosexual brother Victor (Victor Fabregas) and a lonely housewife, Sol (Esperanza Pedreno). Victor and Sol are two of 18 Meals’ most fascinating characters as they each hide something – his sexuality, her depression – from those around them. Best of all is Pedro Alsono as Vladimir, a local celebrity actor who makes a meal for a mystery woman who never arrives. His story spans all three segments and is perhaps the character most viewers will sympathise with and recognise the most. Who hasn’t gone to a lot of trouble to do something extra special for someone just to have it go unappreciated?
Coira co-wrote the screenplay with Araceli Gonda, Diego Ameixeires with assistance from actor improvisation, and although some of the couplets are forgettable, he handles 18 Meals’ topics nicely. A break-up dinner between an older gentleman and his younger lover as well as a sad cook’s ill-fated singing audition feel like afterthoughts and, subsequently, aren’t strong enough. Especially when compared to the emotionally potent scenes that end Juan and Victor’s brotherly standoff.
Jorge Coira’s brisk editing of his own material is certainly an asset, allowing the near two-hour film to never feel slow and tired while Brand Ferro’s cinematography bathes the city in light, showing off the glorious architecture. And, of course, the food looks delicious, too. Make sure you stuff yourself silly with cuisine before the movie or else your tastebuds will be salivating after the first shot.
By Glenn Dunks