3 out of 5 stars
Nothing brings families together like food and drink. The family table is one that provides some of the most precious conversations and biggest dramas in people’s lives. Uncorked taps into this element of familial ties by mixing the impact of food and drink in the dreams, struggles and relationships of those closest to us.
In the heart of Memphis, Louis (Courtney B. Vance) and Sylvia (Niecy Nash) have raised their family and run one of the most successful barbecue restaurants in the city. Louis took over the business from his father and he hopes to pass this legacy over to his son, Elijah (Mamoudou Athie). The only problem is that their youngest son has his eyes on another side of the restaurant trade. Elijah aspires to become a master wine sommelier. He loves his family, but he has had enough BBQ sauce under his nails and would instead prefer to help people to choose the best wines for their meals or events.
As he works under the watchful and judgmental eye of his father, Elijah applies to a Master Sommelier programme and is admitted to the elite school. While he was encouraged by his mother and his supportive girlfriend, Tanya (Sasha Compère), he must learn to juggle work, school and family commitments. Then everything comes to a head when the young wine connoisseur has to attend a part of the curriculum that requires him to travel to Paris. While he is away, he excels in his studies and then things begin to fall apart in his relations with his family. The dramatic tension comes to a point of needing to make a choice to go back to Memphis or to follow his dreams.
Watching this film causes the viewer to have to choose a viewing experience that is reminiscent of the two worlds of barbecue and fine dining. A choice is similar to choosing between a story that is laid out like a plate of ribs that is as straight forward and offering few surprises or choosing a moment of wanting a fine glass of wine. An experience that forces you to search for subtle nuances of this film by looking for the story behind each proverbial sip. Uncorked is an exciting twist of subtleties and complexities that may only be appealing to those most discerning of tastes.
Every actor provides the necessary ingredient needed to complement this tale of family ties, pursuing dreams and the difficulties of life’s choices. The relationship between Mamoudou Athie and Courtney B. Vance’s characters is at the heart of the story and provides the flavour that enhances the whole film. This is an experience that falls into the category of an art film rather than a straight forward family drama. The timelines are more artistic with a reliance on the audience’s imagination to follow the dramatic elements of life, death and relationships.
Uncorked’s artful and stylised storyline may be an acquired taste. Yet, the overall journey does prove to be satisfying in the end.
REEL DIALOGUE: Fathers and sons - the proverbial tension
'Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.' Psalm 127:3-5
One would hope that fathers would want the best for their children. The tension throughout this film was the lack of communication between Elijah and his father. The pride of both men get in the way of their relationship and the decisions they make about one another. Also, Louis has to be reminded that his son is not put on this earth to live the life he wants for himself.
One aspect of fatherhood that was only found later in the film was that men can overlook that this role is not only a responsibility, but it is a privilege. Children are truly a blessing. It can be hard to remember this during the early morning feedings or the latest car smash, but these incidental things should not diminish the gift that they are in our lives.
Fathers need to look at this opportunity as an honour and do all that can be done to be the men our children need us to be. Some days are harder than others, but thankfully the Bible gives us the instruction manual to help to mould our children and prayer provides the comfort to watch over them in all situations.
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" - Joshua 24:15