This movie is Slow Food personified. It is about food that’s cooked in a slow way (literally), and the movie itself is at a pace that could not be slower. Since childhood, the protagonist has always dreamed to make a restaurant. With the help of a family friend, she succeeded in converting her mother’s back shed into one, where she only serves one table per day, and the customer leaves it up to her to decide the courses. Her restaurant is named Restaurant Snail.
As always the case with Japanese movies, there are several scenes that can easily be a painting. The cast doesn’t go the cutesy or glamorous way; in fact, they don’t make themselves beautiful, but the beauty comes from the realistic portrayal of people in their normal lives.
The food is quite diverse, it’s not only Japanese food. I was surprised that Rinko can find some of the ingredients that she uses, considering that the setting of her town seems to be rural Japan. I mean, would we be able to find lamb chops and pomegranates in a local grocery store in Smallville, Kansas? Hmm…
The movie has a positive, child-like innocence appearance – lush sceneries, colorful animation, simple dialogues – but what lies beneath is left unsaid. In that sense, Rinco’s Restaurant may easily resonate with the broadest audience: whichever background you have, whichever feeling you’re harboring when you sit down to watch the movie, there’s a piece in the characters’ lives and emotions that you can identify with, because these characters are not fancy superheroes. They’re us. (Except for the cooking part.)
Although there are parts that I can’t agree with towards the end (you’ll know what I mean when you watch the movie), they are consistent with the slow-food theme, where you eat things with appreciation and respect. Somewhere in the trailer, the narrator says this: Eating is living and loving (「食べることは、生きること、そして、愛すること.」), which is universally agreeable. Although I’ve been using “slow food” for lack of a better word and because that’s how we refer to the traditionally cooked, non-factory-produced food in modern days, the theme in this movie very much embodies traditional cooking in general and the Japanese mindset toward food in particular.
The Japanese title is Shokudo Katatsumuri (食堂かたつむり), which literally translates to “Restaurant Snail”, the name of Rinko’s restaurant. The story is based on Ito Ogawa (糸・小川)’s 2008 novel of the same title and directed by Mai Tominaga (マイ・富永). Watch Rinko’s Restaurant here on Viki.
Spoiler: there is a cute piggy, her name is Erumesu. Erumesu is very picky about food. She’s also well kempt and can talk to Rinko telepathically. Rinco’s mom goes to bed hugging Erumesu. Imagine hugging Erumesu! (^_^)
Nishikata Film Review offers a more in-depth assessment of Rinco’s Restaurant with references and mentioning of other Japanese food films.