Toscana is a Danish-language Netflix original film directed by Mehdi Avaz with additional wring by Nikolaj Scherfig. When Danish chef Theo (Anders Matthesen) learns of his estranged father’s death, he also inherits his restaurant in rural Tuscany. As a result, he’s gripped between his desire to open a new, innovative restaurant at home in Denmark and selling his father’s restaurant o help recoup the money he would need to do so. But he’s especially indecisive when he meets Sophia (Cristiana Dell’Anna), his father’s protegé in Italy.
Toscana is billed as a romance, but I think it’s more apt to view it as a drama. Theo’s struggle with his father’s legacy and the Italian restaurant is much more critical to the movie’s plot and its emotional heft than anything else. With gorgeous vistas, food for days, and plenty of melodrama, Toscana isn’t anything special, but it’s not wishy-washy about what it wants to be, either. If it meant to be a soppy romance that took itself too seriously, it would have failed. If it wanted to be a drama but left itself to excessive corniness, it wouldn’t have worked either. But in the end, the movie picks a heartfelt path, and for that, it garnered my enjoyment.
The story itself is basic, as Theo has tough choices to make, a heart to open up, and relationships to let evolve naturally. His journey with reconciling his ties to his father, his chefs, his business partner and one-time fling, the folks he meets in Italy, and of course, Sophia, go mostly where you’d anticipate with some pleasant surprises, mainly in the name of this movie leaning into drama over romance. It’s basic, but it’s certainly all believable. Neither Matthesen nor Dell’Anna has too many moments to show off their acting chops, but they do deliver powerfully in their brief, more emotional moments, both together and apart.
The brightest spot in Toscana is really its cinematography. The long and stunning shots of the Tuscan countryside with its hills, fog, and farms are worth the viewing alone. They’re some of the most beautiful scenery shots I can recall in recent memory. The same is true of the food throughout the movie. It’s shot in the most appealing way possible, constantly. Theo has a particularity about his process, where he sketches out his platings on paper with pencil, including some ornate flora-incorporated designs. It all looks delectable, and the viewing of its preparation and plating are not rushed or edited harshly. My only comment on the food really is that I’m quite unsure how Theo becomes such an excellent Italian chef so instantly when that doesn’t appear to be his specialty before arriving in Tuscany. Additionally, the score to Toscana completes the emersion. It’s a simple, mostly accordion affair that screams Italian countryside, swooning in at just the right moment with just the right melody to catch in your ear and your heart.
Toscana is a soft, relaxed drama with enough heart and a touch of romantic undertones to make something otherwise unremarkable into a movie worthy of an hour and a half. The emotional moments, especially in the final act, are poignant, albeit against a slightly above-middling story but a gorgeous background.
Toscana is streaming now on Netflix.
Toscana is a soft, relaxed drama with enough heart and a touch of romantic undertones to make something otherwise unremarkable into a movie worthy of an hour and a half. The emotional moments, especially in the final act, are poignant albeit against a slightly above middling story but a gorgeous background.