“Mostly Martha” (2002)


No Reservations about Recommending “Mostly Martha”

The storyline of Sandra Nettelbeck’s “Mostly Martha” must have appealed to some people in Hollywood because it recently was turned into a big-budget American movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart under the title “No Reservations” (2007). I would have called it “Mostly Martha Light.” The German original was entitled “Bella Martha,” and personally, I feel that the German Martha, played by Martina Gedeck, is a much more interesting, though eminently less likable character, who suffers from a plethora of neuroses, not the mostly marthaleast of which is being allergic to human emotions. However, the German film moves more slowly than its American counterpart and is, in many ways, a typical “German” movie with a heavy focus on unspoken psychological factors. So don’t expect a lively pace or exciting action in this movie about elegant food, its unspoken powers, and family ties. The main character, Martha, is a chef at an exclusive restaurant, who is thrown into the unexpected challenge of having to raise her sister’s daughter, Lina, who is less than eager to live with her emotionally reclusive aunt. Fortunately, a go-between appears in the person of Mario, another chef, who is hired to help Martha in her kitchen. After a lot of awkward and unfriendly moments between these three main protagonists, there is of course, a happy ending, and we are left to believe that they lived happily ever after, somewhere in Italy. American viewers sometimes find the movie to be somewhat boring because of its slow pace, particularly if you have to break it up into smaller pieces for classroom instruction and therefore don’t really get into the characters. It is, however, quite suitable for classroom instruction because the dialog, too, moves somewhat slowly and also contains a fairly large number of very common idiomatic expressions. Moreover, the movie is suitable for almost any grade since it does not contain offensive scenes or language, and, as mentioned earlier, it is a good example of the more psychological, human-interest type of movie that is quite common in German cinema.

Teaching Activities and Clips

Mostly Martha worksheet and online exercises (1, 2, 3)

Mostly Martha   (beginner-level reading text with questions and dative exercise; summary of the movie)

English trailer

German trailer

German version is called “Bella Martha”.

bella martha


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