Toast (2010) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

My wife loves to pick movies haphazardly by scrolling through the thousands available to stream, and picking one based on the poster. Our Fourth of July plans were delayed by the weather and our daughter feeling under the weather, so she suggested we watch a movie. A few films in, I paused for a moment on Toast (2010) and mentioned that Freddie Highmore, was in it because she loves August Rush. Moments later, we were starting this film that I knew nothing about – but luckily, it ended up being one that I mostly enjoyed.

Toast is a buttered up biopic that is entertaining enough with a solid cast

Toast is a biopic about Nigel Slater, an English food writer, journalist and broadcaster who I knew nothing about before watching this movie, growing up in 1960s Britain. Young Nigel (Oscar Kennedy) lives with his mum (Victoria Hamilton) who can’t cook at all and his dad (Ken Stott) who is often ill-tempered. Likely as a result of being kept from culinary treats, Nigel longs for the experience of food. There is a funny scene where it appears that his father catches him looking at a dirty magazine, but when Nigel is left alone in his room, he pulls a cookbook from beneath the covers and longingly caresses the pages with hungry hands.

It’s after Nigel convinces his mother to make Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner that his mother’s illness becomes apparent. The movie becomes more about Nigel’s childhood and his struggles to pursue his passion and keep his family functioning. His mother’s eventual passing – which happens early enough that I don’t consider it to be a spoiler – forces his father to hire a cleaner. Mrs. Potter (Helena Bonham Carter) becomes an unwilling rival to Nigel, as she seems to be replacing his mother. Nigel hates her but also is awed by her culinary prowess.

This rivalry continues into his teenage years, where Freddie Highmore takes over the role of Nigel. Kennedy does a solid job in the early stages, but Highmore breaths a bit more life into the role. He is often a stoic actor, but I’ve generally been a fan of his performances. He and Bonham Carter play off each other well, which makes for an enjoyable story overall.  This doesn’t totally paint Nigel as the right party, though, and some of the exchanges between him and Mrs. Potter feel like he is wrong. However, she definitely also feels compelled to fight back, and much of their conflict stems from his resistance in letting her into his world. Nonetheless, the film is mostly light-hearted in tone, despite some of the more serious moments that Nigel goes through.

Final thoughts…

While food is a constant aspect of the movie, it never truly feels like a movie about food. Food is an escape that Nigel finds at times, but the process of him developing that passion isn’t shown as much as I would have expected, having seen films like Chef or East Side Sushi. Nevertheless, I generally enjoyed Toast and would say it earns a Decent Watch rating and, at the time of this post, is available on Prime Instant. 

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