Soul Kitchen
No! Don’t talk. I’m going to read your mind.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/17/2010
Director: Fatih Akin
Cast: Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu, Birol Ünel, Anna Bederke, Pheline Roggan, Lukas Gregorowicz, Dorka Gryllus, Demir Gökgöl

If there’s one thing that Germany makes me think of, it’s Soul music. No wait, that’s one of the last things I associate with them. However, writer/director Fatih Akin’s new film, “Soul Kitchen”, manages to make this notion work … and work well.

We are introduced to Zinos Kazantsakis (Adam Bousdoukos), who owns the titular restaurant. His journalist girlfriend has been assigned to China and he is now looking to find a new manager for the joint. His pickings are slim, as the only real candidates are a free spirited waitress (Anna Bederke) and his partially paroled brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu).

Complicating matters are a back injury, an old friend who decides he wants to buy the property and won’t take no for an answer, and a new chef whose cuisine turns away all the old customers and sends Zinos scrambling to discover new clientele.

It’s a quirky group of characters and Akin manages to deftly weave humor and heart in with the drama. The food porn is kept to a minimum, which serves (sorry for the pun) to highlight the story and people within; though I’d be lying if I said this Food Network junkie couldn’t have used a little more emphasis on the cuisine.

What works best about the film are the relationships developed over the course of telling this slightly formulaic but ultimately heartwarming tale. Each character subtly becomes integral to the whole dynamic and I found myself wholly invested in the film very quickly. Akin also did a wonderful job of making the music in the film more than just background noise, and composed his shots with a keen eye. There’s even a small cameo by one of my favorite character actors, Udo Keir.

In the end, even though the premise of the film is far from original, I’m giving “Soul Kitchen” an extra bump to a 3.5 out of 5 simply because the characters were so enjoyable and the charm involved kept me going. I’m still a bit miffed that the story took on one last bit of conflict because the pacing suffered as a result, but if you’re a fan of light-hearted foreign cinema, this one will hit the spot.