Film Review: Julia is a heartwarming documentary about trailblazer chef extraordinaire Julia Child

Julia is the latest film by documentary filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen. They are best known for their acclaimed works such as RBG and My Name is Pauli Murray; studies of renowned trailblazers who have contributed so much to the world and have shattered social norms in order to do so. The latest subject is Julia Child, a chef extraordinaire who had achieved massive success due to her broad charisma, her skill in French cuisine and her television work that had brought her worldwide appeal.

The film essentially follows the life of Child from her humble family upbringing, her burgeoning passion for cooking, her love life, her massive success and coming to grips with that and her later life before her passing. All in a taut 90-minute runtime, West and Cohen manage to capture the spirit of Child to create a heartwarming piece of work.

The presentation in its examination of Child is almost unashamedly sweet and jovial, The musical score is quite cloying, as it poses questions as to how Child managed to be such an optimistic woman through her throes of success. The film also examines her fans and how Child became an inspiration to them, conveying a message that it is okay to make mistakes and that we can all learn from them. The interviewees including her friends, mentors and work colleagues had basically pegged her as an unstoppable force of good; all with good-natured humour. And of course, West and Cohen cannot resist delving into gastronomical sights of delight as they pepper insights of cooking that will make hungry filmgoers cringe and salivate with delight.

That is not to say that West and Cohen eschew the darker moments of her life. One example is her upbringing from her overly conservative father, in which his ideology had rubbed off on her to the point that she inherently became homophobic. Due to a death of a close colleague from AIDS, who she had only recently discovered his sexual orientation, she became a passionate AIDS activist. There are other moments where her fame had dwindled due to her views, such as supporting the “Planned Parenthood” movement, where she became a champion of reproductive rights.

And there was her love life with enigmatic yet extremely supportive husband Paul Cushing Child. Their initial encounter had revealed the two to be polar opposites but her broad charisma and his eloquent mind brought the two together and a beautiful romance ensued. Cohen and West assembled cutaways that display excerpts from Child’s journal conveying the romance and drama between the two and it creates an engaging and poignant narrative that shows the woman behind the icon.

Overall, Julia is a lovably warm documentary about the amazing life of acclaimed chef/trailblazer/headstrong woman Julia Child. It explores her life from her worldwide fame, her throes during her success and her passion for cooking. Highly recommended.

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Julia is showing in limited cinemas now.

Harris Dang

Rotten Tomatoes-approved Film Critic. Also known as that handsome Asian guy you see in the cinema with a mask on.

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