East Side Sushi (2014) – Anthony Lucero

 

Starting a theatrical run in select cities State-side, is this perfect little concoction that delighted, entertained, and fired my appetite. Director Anthony Lucreo has whipped up a splendid little offering that is wonderfully cast, doesn’t cheat or talk down to its audience, and makes us feel for all of the characters involved.

At the film’s center is Juana (a lovely turn by Diana Elizabeth Torres) and her family, her father, Victor (Jesus Fuentes) and her daughter, Lydia (Kaya Jade Aguirre). Juana does what she can to survive, working multiple jobs, waking at ungodly hours, all so that Lydia can get a strong schooling and opportunity. Juana is dedicated to that idea, working a fruit cart, and a cleaning job to make ends meet, and provide.

She’s worked in restaurants in her time, and has become very handy with a knife, slicing and dicing, fast and accurate. When events lead her to apply to work in a kitchen at a Japanese restaurant, Osaka, drawn in by the beauty and the design of the sushi and other meals on offer, she enters a whole new world of food, that she’s never been aware of, or tried.

Working as kitchen help, she meets the lead sushi bar chef, Aki (Yutaka Takeuchi), who sees her skills, and starts to slowly enlist her help in food preparation. She in turn, watches him, studying, and then practicing at home, as she learns the art of making sushi, from the proper way to slice a fish to the making of the rice. She experiments, much to her father’s consternation, as he is happier with tacos, and more traditional Mexican fare.

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She creates, and proves herself over and over, until she realizes that this is her dream, to become a sushi chef.

And here is where she comes into a problem, well, two problems. She can’t be a sushi chef… She’s not Japanese, and she’s not a man.

Will it be enough for her to follow her interests and passions? Will she be able to break through the traditions and biases that keep her from becoming who she wants to be?

Lovingly shot, and hunger inspiring, this film celebrates the breaking of barriers, the pursuit of dreams, and the joy of multiculturalism, is there anything more noble and inspiring than that? In that light, it feels very much like an homage to the American Dream, without being cynical about it.

The performances are honest, the food looks amazing (I’m going to have to go out for sushi very soon I think), and the story is wonderfully involving, in fact I was rather surprised at how swept up in the film I had gotten.

This is one to keep an eye out for, check listings, watch for it on VOD, but make sure you have a Japanese restaurant close by, because you’re going to be hungry afterwards.

I loved this film.

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