Review: ‘Recipes to Stay Together’

Written by two women, this film, the title of which translates literally into "cilantro and parsley," purports to study the problems in a couple's relationship from a female perspective. But effort is implausible and irritating on nearly every count, and looks unlikely to cross either the Rio Grande or the Guatemalan border. Nora (Alpha Acosta) is shooting a video documentary detailing the domestic conflict of her sister Susana (Arcelia Ramirez), the woman in crisis. Besides the fact that such a battling couple would be unlikely to allow their fights to be filmed, the use of the video as a propelling narrative device has long been hackneyed. Director Rafael Montero's idea of moving events along is to skew his angles or swing the camera about to the point of inducing vertigo in the spectator.

Nora is not content to shoot only her sister and brother-in-law Carlos (Demian Bichir), each of whom also speaks directly into the video camera about their problems. She also tapes the blonde who Carlos picks up and the handsome psychologist with whom Susana is fixed up after the separation. Nora even turns the lens on herself and a musician boyfriend with whom she has trouble.

But Nora’s, and the filmmakers’, goal exceeds their reach. That the blonde is a complete bimbette and the psychologist gay (with a lover dying of AIDS) only reinforce the built-in conservatism of the film: Couples should stay together and make things work out. We’re even treated to a Catholic wedding at the end at which everyone is reunited.

Film has an incongruous ’50s-ish bluesy score, and the lighting is uneven. Standout here is actress Ramirez, an unadorned natural who picked up a special mention form the Guadalajara Film Festival international jury for her thesping in three features. Recurring cilantro and parsley leitmotif (“Things can look alike and be so different,” Carlos explains to Susana) is trite.

Recipes to Stay Together



An IMCINE/Televicine/Constelacion Films production. (International sales: Maria Eugenia Garzon, IMCINE, Mexico City.) Executive producer, Javier Garcia Mata. Directed by Rafael Montero. Screenplay, Cecilia Perez Grovas, Carolina Rivera.


Camera (color/B&W), Guillermo Granillo; editor, Oscar Figueroa; music, Enrique Quezada; art direction, Teresa Pecanins; sound, Salvador de la Fuente. Reviewed at Guadalajara Film Festival (competing), March 14, 1997. Running time: 94 MIN.


Carlos ..... Demian Bichir Susana ..... Arcelia Ramirez Nora ..... Alpha Acosta Jorge ..... Juan Manuel Bernal Psychologist ..... German Dehesa Adela ..... Mercedes Pascual Vicky ..... Maya Mishalska
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