Soul Kitchen

If the apartment of the female lead in Head-On (04) looks (according to her boyfriend) like it’s been hit by a chick bomb, then the title restaurant of Fatih Akin’s latest film has been hit by the male equivalent. The dingy, sparsely frequented Hamburg eatery in question is owned and run by Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos), an endearing Greek-German, who each night deep-fries frozen food for undiscriminating locals. It’s hardly the type of joint that even his awkwardly tall girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) would stoop to enter.

Akin, a German with Turkish roots, is known for exploring themes of cultural identity and homeland. And while Soul Kitchen is his self-professed attempt at a Heimatfilm, it more closely resembles a screwball comedy. It’s fast and airy, and follows a protagonist whose escalating misfortunes are played mostly for laughs. Nadine is relocating to Shanghai—a move Zinos also hopes to make—just as his lazy, thieving brother, Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu), is granted part-time leave from prison as long as he’s “employed” at Soul Kitchen. Plus, the irascible new chef, Shayn (the priceless Birol Ünel), is estranging customers with his lofty culinary aspirations. Oh, and then there are the back problems that render Zinos practically immobile.

Like the aphrodisiac-spiked dessert that Shayn prepares one night, the movie’s effects may not linger long, but they are feverishly fun and guilt-free while they last.