That first "F" in SIFF stands for film, not food, but there's plenty of onscreen eating at the festival to entertain the culinary-minded moviegoer. As a supplement to Seattle Weekly's coverage of the Seattle International Film Festival, Voracious will again this year highlight the program's films of particular interest to those viewers who spend more time in dining rooms than screening rooms.
Every review of A Better Life, Cedric Kahn's recession-era drama, warns readers not to confuse the film with Chris Weitz's A Better Life, which last year netted an Academy Award nomination for Demian Bechir's performance. Weitz's A Better Life is about undocumented immigrant gardeners in Los Angeles. Kahn's A Better Life is about the difficulties of opening a restaurant in rural France.
There are similarities between the films: Both story lines delve into family dynamics and feature brushes with crime. But the U.S. film doesn't touch on the intricacies of bank loans and health sanitation codes.
Guillaume Canet plays Yann, a trained chef with a flimsy resume. Although he can't find work in a Paris kitchen, he strikes up a romance with a waitress he met during an interview. Yann's also fond of Nadia's nine-year old son, and so the three form an improvised family.
Still desperate for income, Yann and Nadia decide to buy a lakeside restaurant. The endeavor strains their relationship, and Nadia eventually flees for the promise of a better job in Montreal, leaving Yann to oversee her son and their fledgling business.
Critics have praised the film for capturing the everyday rigors of getting by.
"Kahn's film contains nary a single unconvincing moment, ratcheting up the emotional tension with one believably soul-crushing circumstance after another," Justin Chang wrote in Variety. "From Yann's tense discussions with a stern but good-hearted financial counselor to his fury at Slimane when the boy takes a risk they literally can't afford, the drama remains sharply focused and specific to the end."
The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycut called A Better Life a "pretty remarkable document as it speaks to the way love and ambition can persevere against the odds in any era."