In this riveting Mexican romantic-drama based on the novel by Laura Esquivel, we meet Tita (Lumi Cavazos), whom is her mother’s youngest daughter. According to family tradition, this means she can never marry and must take care of her mother until death do them part.
Pedro (Marco Leonardi) is deeply in love with Tita, but sadly, his love (while genuine) is also spineless, and when he fails to get her widowed mother’s permission to marry Tita, he agrees to instead marry her sister Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi), so that he can remain near her.
What follows over the next few decades is Tita and Pedro both suffering dearly for the consequences of his actions, burning with unrequited love and being unable to do anything about it. Pedro married Rosaura in order to be close to Tita, but the physical closeness becomes a weight around their necks, a never-ending tease as they are moved like chess pieces in the sick power games being played by Tita’s cruel mother, Mama Elena (Regina Torné), games in which Rosaura is also a pawn. Tita’s only refuge is in the kitchen, where she allows her cooking to express all the things that her lips and body dare not speak, casting culinary spells of passion and longing over all who partake of her cuisine.
Once their middle sister, Gertrudis (Claudette Maillé), their mother’s favourite daughter and Tita’s confidante, runs away and Rosaura and Pedro become parents, the tension in their household, as well as Mama Elena’s abuse of Tita reaches a climax. Mama Elena is so desperate to separate Pedro and Tita that she pushes him and Rosaura to move to Texas, a decision which has dire consequences for their family. Unable to seek refuge even in Nacha (Ada Carrasco), the family cook and surrogate mother who’d look after her from infancy, Tita finally decides to let a man other than Pedro into her heart and Dr. John Brown (Mario Iván Martínez) saves her life and her sanity just in time.
With the arrival of her beloved niece, Tita vows that this sick family tradition will die with her, that no one else will have to live the life of lovelessness, repression, and pain that she’s been forced to endure. Pedro’s love may have been genuine, but his respect for her abusive mother, and unwillingness to marry her, to choose her and respect her consent more than her mother’s denial, caused years of pain to not just the two of them, but Rosaura and their extended family as well.
Like Water for Chocolate is a heart-wrenching étude into the destructive power of abusive parents, and how respecting your elders will never be as important as believing in and respecting yourself. It also showcases how those who are consumed with what others have to say about them and keeping up appearances will never be truly free, and always be in some form of bondage.
I give this one 4.75 stars.