Ramen Shop is a heartwarming story about two cultures and one family with a troubled history and a need to heal. I love the opening wide shot of a field where you see children walking along in the distance, birds flying and a quintessential Japanese train cutting through the frame. Beautiful, introspective and playful compositions like this tell this family drama. It’s easy to get wrapped up in this film as it revolves around the extended and multidimensional meanings of food — really delicious food. And although it’s told in a straightforward visual style, story structure-wise it intertwines in a way that keeps the narrative interesting. It’s a Singaporean film but like the food, it’s really all about the meshing of one culture, like a helix, with another.
In a time of increasing nationalist sentiment around the world, it’s important to have stories like these. Not simplistic tales about how everyone should happily embrace a former enemy but a real look at history, the roots of mistrust and how we can gain confidence and learn from one another again. I really don’t want to say more since I do hope you watch it and I’d rather not drop any spoilers here. There is not a lot of over the top emotion in Ramen Shop but when climactic drama does happen it is powerful with a denouement that will leave you reaching for a box of tissues or Pocky’s.
So if you love food, especially asian food in general and Japanese and Singaporean cuisine in particular. Or if you are a fan of films like Citizen Kane or Tokyo Story with a lot of fixed camera shots, deep focus and well crafted mise-en-scene. Or if you are in the mood for a sentimental story that is still grounded in history and has a lot of heart, I highly recommend Ramen Shop to you. My neighbors actually brought me the copy I watched and asked me to return it to the library when I was done.
Make sure you have a restaurant reservation right after or eat before you watch this movie —or at least have some popcorn beside you because you won’t make it.