Apprehensively I decided to watch the TV film about Nigel Slater’s childhood. A very interesting film that tweaked the details of the real events of his childhood for the purposes of entertainment is probably the best way to describe it. I watched this film fully expecting to find it dull or boring, however I now believe that it is Definitely worth a watch, particularly for fans of Freddie Highmore.
The storyline is both depressing and happy, at the beginning we see a little boy (Nigel slater) fed up that his mother only cooks food from tins, it is quite refreshing seeing a child wants to eat healthier food and is forced to eat processed food. Desperate for better food Nigel suggests that him and his mother cook spaghetti bolognese, and it works out fine until his mother and father both refuse to eat the food, and his mother shows the first signs of breathlessness.
At this stage we find out Nigel’s mother is ill with her asthma, and Nigel’s father appears to be taking out all of his frustration on Nigel. When Nigel’s mother dies they still eat tin food, until Nigel’s father hires Mrs Potter – a cleaner. She decides she needs to look after them and cooks for the two men, naturally Nigel has a problem with this as he feels she is replacing his mother – which actually ends up happening!
His father marries Mrs Potter and she cooks for then every day. One day at school Nigel starts home economics classes and brings scones home, mrs Potter gets jealous that Nigel’s father enjoys his scones and makes it her mission to stop Nigel from cooking. Nigel rebels from this and gets a part time job at a kitchen, but his father makes him stop the job due to Mrs Potter being jealous. Through that part time job he meets a lovely young man who encourages him to follow his dreams and tells him that he can do whatever he likes, followed by a kiss which makes it all the more real for Nigel.
We see Nigel’s father growing in size from all the food and one day his anger seeps through due to Nigel and Mrs Potter always fighting about food. The next time we hear of Nigel’s father he has died and Nigel leaves Mrs Potter by herself in the house. The end scene of the film is Nigel securing a job at the savoy hotel as a chef, he chased his dream and be made it.
This film was an incredibly charming watch with brilliant performances by Freddie Highmore, Helena Bonham Carter and Ken Stott. The rest of the cast were good also but those performances stood out. I feel like Freddie Highmore understood the character better than the little boy who played young Nigel (Oscar Kennedy) but that is to be expected from a more mature actor. Highmore showed a great range of emotions and, as always, proved himself as an actor, if you are a Highmore fan I would say this is one of his best performances. Bonham Carter played her character with high skill as always, but it did feel like a bit of a cop out as it was similar to a lot of the other characters she plays, the common woman who is a bit unusual.
The cinematography in this film definitely surprised me in a positive way. I often find that TV films slack of a bit in this department but this film was beautifully shot, with really nice dolly shots and inventive shots to show time passing by, like when the film shows lots of different meals being put out on the table then revealing Nigel as a teenager. There was also a really great use of not showing the whole picture, but showing enough to understand what is going on, like when Mrs Potter is sneaking out of the window if her husbands house to spend time with the Slater’s it only shows her jumping out the window. Nothing before hand which was effective because it gives the viewer something to think about when watching the film.
Pacing in the film was really slow to begin with and it got a little bit boring, but the pacing picked up once Mrs Potter came in to the mix and after that I was hooked to the film, I believe that because Highmore and Bonham Carter has such a great stage presence it helped the film move along from that stage.
All in all this was a good watch, a charming film and I now wish to find out more about Nigel Slater, so a success for the BBC. If giving a rating I would probably give 3 stars out of 5 because of the pacing issues at the beginning.
What are your thoughts on the film?
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