A solid script and strong performances give firm foundations to “One Calorie of Tenderness.” However, the whole is weakened by pedestrian direction from veteran helmer Ivanka Grubcheva that’s scarcely responsive to the emotional currents on display. “Calorie” will make reliable programming for Bulgarian film weeks abroad but won’t put on much B.O. weight theatrically.
Nadia (Maria Kavardzhikova, excellent), a 42-year-old research chemist hoping to get her Ph.D., is preparing for a family dinner at her apartment. Daughter Maria (Maria Zhikich) and son Stefan (Darin Angelov) are already there; granny (Tsvetana Maneva) arrives with a cake; Nadia’s philandering ex-husband, Radoslav (Valentin Ganev), comes with flowers to propose re-marriage after 15 years; and Nadia’s work colleague, Liliana (Plamena Getova), makes it a sextet. But Nadia has a revelation to make that throws everyone. Individual storylines are cleanly delineated but dialogue often strives to find a balance between being natural and issue-led. Femmes dominate the drama, with male characters underdrawn in comparison, giving pic an unbalanced flavor, not helped by the sometimes jerky rhythm. Lensing is flat, music warm and supportive but repetitive.