'Kitchen Quartet' by Nicole Woodford (FLARE 2009)

‘Kitchen Quartet’ is Nicole’s take on the 6 degrees of separation. The common element in the different stories is something close to the hearts of many Singaporeans – food. The film deserves some credit for adding a more uplifting touch to the usual working class survival issues. Apart from a happy ending, the film also has a slightly saturated look that perhaps serves to make the food in the film more appetizing!

Shu An, a young chef gets fired by the manager because an important food critic, in one of his moods, found the food difficult to stomach. The novelty of this cause-and-effect type of plot makes it easy to neglect the giving meat to the characters. But delightfully, in ‘Kitchen Quartet’, the four characters are as full-bodied in flavour as the hokkien mee that everyone seems to like! We could almost name this film Hokkien Mee too.

Through well-paced relevations on each character, we trace the all important connections between the characters. Food critic secretly likes Hokkien Mee but gets his maid to buy. His son discovers it and starts cooking it for his father. Meanwhile, Shu An tries to cook it for her Hokkien Mee hawker mum after knowing her mum will never grow to like haute cuisine. They finally converge when the critic openly brings his son to the stall. In between all that, personal contradictions and dilemmas are exposed, sometimes comically, sometimes, in a heartwarming way. The bottom line is ‘Kitchen Quartet’ never slips out of ‘major key’ while dealing with gritty, real-life ‘minor key’ issues.
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