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74th Berlinale | The World as if it were ‘La Cocina’



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“La Cocina”, by Mexican writer and director Alonso Ruizpalacios (“A Crime Film”), was the strongest film of the day. Starring actress Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and Mexican star Raúl Briones (“A Cop Movie”), it is a troubled love story, in black and white, that takes place in one day in a busy kitchen of a Times Square restaurant.

During the lunch rush, a large amount of money disappeared from the restaurant’s cash register. The cooks, almost all illegal immigrants, are investigated by the boss’s representative, with Pedro (Raúl Briones), a dreamer and at the same time an explosive and conflicted type, is the main suspect in the robbery. Pedro is in love with Julia (Rooney Mara), one of the waitresses, an American who doesn’t want to commit to a serious relationship, especially with an illegal immigrant. Meanwhile, the restaurant owner promises to help Pedro with his immigration documents, at the same time that a shocking revelation about Julia forces Pedro to get involved in one of his many troubles, which will interrupt once and for all, cooking and eating. dish production line, in one of the busiest kitchens in the city. Based on the acclaimed play “La Cocina” by British playwright Arnold Wesker – O Cascais Experimental Theaterpremiered it in 2007 and presented it in ‘streaming‘ during confinement -, is a tragicomedy that pays homage not to the exquisite ‘Chefs’ — which currently gained star study and the subject of other films — but rather the invisible people, the cooks, the helpers, the illegal immigrants, who prepare our food in fashionable restaurants, at the same time as they dream of a better life. ‘I started daydreaming about this film when I was a dishwasher and waiter at the Rainforest Café in central London during my student days.’it says Alonso Ruizpalaciosto explain how the idea for the film came to him.


“La Cocina” It also works as a metaphor for the kitchen, seen as a stratified, conflicting and unequal world, where a class struggle remains. ‘It was also at that time, when I was in London, that I read the play for the first time’The Kitchen’of Arnold Wesker, on which the plot of this film is loosely based. Reading the play at the same time as working in an industrial kitchen made this experience much more interesting and the heavy workdays more bearable. I was impressed by the complex layering system that still exists in large kitchens and is actually an essential part of what keeps them functioning. As with a ship’s crew, hierarchy is not something that is taken lightly behind restaurant doors.’ And in this film the kitchen, functions as a kind of entrance hall to the world we live in: it represents a mirror of a great contemporary and cosmopolitan city, which could be either New York or Lisbon, as if it were a babel of voices, languages, desires, individuals with the its most diverse particularities.


In the midst of these characters are their obstacles in life, which have to be overcome: the paperwork for legalization, the issues of capital and employment, the dreams of each one and, of course, the desire also that this great kitchen will one day be silence so that they can listen again, however little, to the world outside. In the chaos of that ‘La Cocina’ There is the entropy of the world and the constant repetition of serving tasks, a plate of food is made of automatic gestures, like an assembly line or automation. Ruizpalacios, best known for his 2014 debut with Gueros‘, says that ‘in these types of places, you meet all types of people from all corners of the world that you would never meet outside of work”, about this world of catering and kitchens. ‘Kitchens become a microcosm of how the world works. It’s like a caste system that develops. What attracts me to this subject is how to survive in a place like this. And the only way is through friendship and camaraderie’. ‘La Cocina’ marks an excellent return for Rooney Mara since ‘Women Talking-The Voice of Women’nominated for the 2022 Oscar and one of the three films the actress has made since 2021, after a prolific period with 10 films between 2015 and 2017.


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