Early July saw the UK premiere of Delicious, an independent film that dives into the dark depths of mental illness and its devastating effects on personal relationships. Delicious tells the story of Jacques, a talented French chef who arrives in London in search of employment at an uptown restaurant. The job is the least of his worries, however, as he soon finds himself risking everything for his troubled neighbour Stella, a young woman at war with the world and with herself.
The event began early, giving guests a chance to meet the people behind the film; Tammy Riley-Smith (writer/director), Michael Price (composer/producer), and Louise Brealey (lead actress) were all in attendance to promote the film they gave their hearts to. The small venue gave the illusion of intimacy; it felt more like a private party than a premiere, and it was a privilege to feel so welcome at this exclusive event.
With guests sitting anxiously in their seats a Q&A session was held at the front of the theatre, with Louise Brealey, Tammy Riley-Smith and Michael Price leading the way. Louise sat on the stage itself, just below the cinema screen, poised as a princess in her magnificent dress. (Later, she claimed, it was because she couldn’t stand up in those high heels.)
Naturally, the topics lead a dark path, providing insight into the sad tale the narrative holds and how difficult it was to get it right. Delicious illustrates a very personal and secretive disorder, which makes it very difficult to explain accurately and compassionately. Louise confirms this, but likens Delicious‘ fiction to that of true life: “often when things are really shit, you laugh a bit […] in real life it’s hard to separate comedy and tragedy – they don’t fit into those boxes”.
Producer Michael Price agreed with these ideas, adding “[when you] go through times of sadness you put on a brave face”. It was easy to connect with this film as the characters are complex, troubled, and so very human. Tammy had injected the film with dry wit that shocked the laughter out of you, offering relief from the otherwise upsetting piece.
When asked how he got involved, Michael Price joked it was “institutional madness and white wine” but soon admitted it was his “instinct to support stories that should get an airing”. He concluded that “films give you permission to feel”, and that’s exactly what Delicious does. Its humble approach does not hide the complexities of human nature, but explains them in a simple and honest narrative that’ll eat away at you for weeks afterward.
The questions were soon over, for Louise had to dash away on a motorbike and the audience were anxious to see the film they’d spent so long supporting.
As previously stated, Delicious opens with Jacques arriving at St. Pancras station in search of a job and a home. Not just any job will do, as he seeks employment at the Lawn Bistro and no where else. Maybe he’s hoping he’ll find more than just a pay cheque…
His neighbour Stella becomes his primary focus though; she never eats. The only calories in Stella’s kitchen are in the alcohol and Jacques soon uncovers her destructive eating disorder. Surprisingly, this doesn’t push him away and he immediately attempts to save her.
The subtleties of this film are not to be underestimated; Stella wears gloves to hide the calluses on her knuckles, plays the same song on repeat, and uses her dry wit to keep a long distance between her and everyone else. These might just seem like character quirks but in reality these add up to the problematic behaviour that bulimia exhibits. It’s heartbreaking to watch.
Louise Brealey’s performance of a character so broken is to be admired. Stella is a firework with nothing stable in her life; she pushes people away so they don’t get burned. Jacques even describes her as a “human car crash”. When her eating disorder is at its worst, when you can see Stella binging on food then throwing it up in the next instance, is when you realise how remarkable Louise is. It takes a strong mind to take on something so horrific and I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Louise to perform.
When Jacques finds Stella she’s passed out on the floor; her body is broken from the violent acts she inflicted upon it and she does not want to be saved. “Let me die” she mutters, as Jacques wakes her. That one line cut through my skin and shattered my heart.
Jacques doesn’t let her go, and the next morning he endeavours to fix her. I can’t say I agree with his methods, keeping Stella locked in her own flat until she eats something, but I admire his intentions. Stella doesn’t make it easy, though, and it’s a battle for both of them to get what they want.
This film might be small, but it crawls under your skin and hurts in ways you wouldn’t expect. Their depiction of bulimia and its devastating effects is startlingly accurate and it’s a worthy insight into human relationships – both Stella’s and Jacques’. Delicious is not for the faint-hearted but it’s certainly worth crying over.
Watch the trailer below: