Portrait of the Foodie as a Young Man in Toast
Premiered as a BBC1 telefilm, now flaunting its wasteful widescreen in theaters, Toast adapts the autobiography of Nigel Slater, a popular British food writer looking back in condescension on the Midlands of his youth. The film begins in the middle-class Wolverhampton home where young Nigel is raised on a tinned-food diet by his asthmatic mum (Victoria Hamilton), a cook who could burn water, and his chronically indigested, owlish dad (Ken Stott). Nigels only respite is the visits of a free-spirited young gardener in motorcycle leathersthe way Nigel gazes on his mentor gives us some inkling of the boys nascent adult desires. When mum passes, shes replaced by Helena Bonham Carters lower-class housekeepera gifted cookwho seduces dad and competes for his affection through food preparation with Nigel, who has grown into a home economics prodigy. Oscar Kennedy and Freddie Highmore, respectively playing Nigel as an adolescent and teenager, are remarkably well-matched in lack of screen presence, if not in looks. Slaters book was evidently an ax-grinder, and the resulting film, directed with tone-deaf comic rhythm by S.J. Clarkson, shows pity and bemusement for the people raising Nigel but rarely human interest in them. More damning still, even the food looks ugly.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.