The scrumptious food in “When Fish Fall in Love” makes for a more substantial meal than the pleasant, though old-fashioned bit of feel-good fluff that contextualizes the dishes in theater director Ali Rafiee’s screen debut as helmer. Using an exile’s return home to encapsulate the truism that meals are tastiest when partaken with loved ones, pic’s by-the-numbers script is easily digested but lacks any memorable bite. Alternatively titled “The Fish Fall in Love,” pic was well received at home, and could find a short life on Euro screens.
After 22 years away, Aziz (Reza Kianian) returns to the Caspian Sea and his family’s abandoned mansion. During his absence, the house was commandeered by former love Atieh (Roya Nonahali), who turned it into a restaurant and now fears Aziz will kick her out. Hoping to rekindle the old romance, her daughter Touka (Golshifteh Farahani) and colleagues woo him with their cuisine, though he needs little incentive. Full of easily resolved misunderstandings and rather obvious plot parallels, “Fish” greatly benefits from d.p. Mahmoud Kalari (“Offside”), who brings forth the lushness of both sea and kitchen, though strong lighting feels overly theatrical.