Review: Step Up To The Plate (Entre Les Bras)

Entre Les Bras is a culinary documentary by filmmaker Paul Lacoste. It follows the chef and owner, Michel Bras of the three-star Michelin restaurant Bras and his son, Chef Sébastien Bras, who will takeover when he retires.

Movie poster from Cinema Guild Step Up To The Plate press kit

The hotel-restaurant sits atop the picturesque mountains in Laguiole (in the Aubrac region of southern France). This is not the first time that Lacoste worked with Michel. He filmed a piece on him a decade ago for his series on French chefs, Inventing Cuisine.
Restaurant Bras (Architect Eric Raffy; photo from Raffy-Design.com)

What director Paul Lacoste has to say about Step Up to the Plate as a follow-up to his previous feature on Chef Michel Bras:

“You could say that. In the first film, we saw Michel correcting his son’s spelling of the word “shallot”…Ten years later, Sébastien is still a great technician, and his personal culinary expression is starting to explode. When I talked to him abot this film, I suggested a sort of creative logbook…The idea was to get him to take risks” (From a interview with Sébastien Demorand)

Filmmaker Paul Lacoste (photo from Cinema Guild Step Up To The Plate press kit)

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from Films We Like, inviting me to watch the documentary. Entre les Bras (Step Up To The Plate) will open at the TIFF Bell Lightbox December 7th (LUMA for a pre-movie dinner anyone?!) so I was really flattered to have been approached to watch and review it so much earlier prior to release. :D (cue appreciative happy dance).
Yesterday morning I finally found the time to sit down and enjoy the documentary. It was shot over the span of a year in 2009, alternating between the Bras hotel-restaurant in Laguiole and their location in Japan, Toya, for the winter. Both feature stunning surroundings.

From the synopses you find online, it’s easy to draw a comparison of Step Up To The Plate to Jiro Dreams of Sushi. But this father-son chef dynamic isn’t uncommon in the food industry and this one proves to be quite different. 
Michel Bras and his son, Sébastien Bras (photo from Cinema Guild Step Up To The Plate press kit)

The documentary is very contemplative, featuring beautiful imagery and a recurring theme of time, which Lacoste captures through sunrises. At the very beginning of Step Up To The Plate, we see Michel assembling his signature dish, le garouillou. As if to parallel that, throughout the doc we see Sébastien developing a dish that tells his story. (One word to describe it: beautiful).
Chef Michel Bras' signature dish: le garouillou (photo from Cinema Guild Step Up To The Plate press kit)

Entre les Bras  isn’t about Sébastien trying to live up to his father’s expectations (although one scene where Michel is “watching” his son plate a dish is pretty hilarious), but rather how he develops confidence in his own cuisine. There’s definitely a palpable sense of optimism as the documentary captures this process.

Sometimes, silence is just as powerful as words. So to sum things up, I really enjoyed Entre les Bras. Lacoste didn’t force the narrative, but rather took a backseat so the audience could just, watch.

Get your tickets online for Step Up To The Plate at the TIFF Bell Lightbox HERE! :D

Entre Les Bras (Step Up To The Plate), 2012
Director: Paul Lacoste
French w/ subtitles
89 minutes 


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