The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

English gangster Albert Spica has taken over the high-class Le Hollandais Restaurant, run by French chef Richard Boarst. Spica makes nightly appearances at the restaurant with his retinue of thugs. His oafish behavior causes frequent confrontations with the staff and his own customers, whose patronage he loses, but whose money he seems not to miss.

Forced to accompany Spica is his reluctant, well-bred wife, Georgina, who soon catches the eye of a quiet regular at the restaurant, bookshop owner Michael. Under her husband’s nose, Georgina carries on an affair with Michael with the help of the restaurant staff. Ultimately Spica learns of the affair, forcing Georgina to hide out at Michael’s book depository. Boarst sends food to Georgina through his young employee Pup, a boy soprano who sings while working. Spica tortures the boy before finding the bookstore’s location written in a book the boy is carrying. Spica’s men storm Michael’s bookshop while Georgina is visiting the boy in hospital. They torture Michael to death by force-feeding him pages from his books. Georgina discovers his body when she returns.

Overcome with rage and grief, she begs Boarst to cook Michael’s body, and he eventually complies. Together with all the people that Spica wronged throughout the film, Georgina confronts her husband finally at the restaurant and forces him to eat a mouthful of Michael’s cooked body. Spica obeys, gagging, before Georgina shoots him in the head.


Young Helen Mirren is a goddess, and there wasn’t much of a drop off as she has aged like a fine wine. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover is one of the showcases of what she was capable of at a young age, not to mention giving us a film that we just don’t these days in this politically correct society.

What is this about?

Tired of her barbaric husband, the wife of a crime boss engages in a secret romance with a bookish patron between meals at her husband’s restaurant.

What did I like?

Barbaric. In today’s world, when a film comes out that has anything remotely violent, there is always some sort of group just ready to pounce. I can only imagine the field day they would have with this one where Michael Gambon’s character physically and verbally abuses everyone he comes into contact with, especially Helen Mirren’s character, whom he makes sure everyone knows she is his property. Hard to believe that some 40 or so years later he’ll become kindly old wizard, Dumbledore.

Helen. Dame Helen Mirren is not only a vision of loveliness, as always, but she strips down, showing her natural (and quite impressive) curves a few times as she has some fun with “her lover”. More importantly, though, is the fact that for most of the film she says little to nothing, but when it is time for her to speak, well, she isn’t one of the greats for no reason, I’ll put it that way. Her final soliloquy, for lack of a better term, is quite moving and sets up what she has to do quite nicely.

Beautiful. While the lighting is quite dark, I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully shot this film was. Everything from the costumes, to the food, dishes, etc. Obviously, this is more of an “artsy-fartsy” type of film, and the setting and scenery reflect that, but man alive is it beautiful.

What didn’t I like?

Sadist. Maybe I’m just so used to Gambon playing nice, “grandfather” type characters, but this thief guy he played was a real piece of work. Not only did he boss everyone around without remorse, but he took pleasure in torturing and killing his victims, as well as slapping around Helen Mirren’s character. For film purposes, he worked, but on a personal level, I despise and detest him.

Food. It would appear that this is a formal restaurant which serves haute-cuisine. Thing about that, though, is that for all we know they could have been serving gruel or dirty bath water. I’m not saying this needed to have the same kind of food budget or cinematography as Chef, but it would have been nice to see some of the actual food, even if was being messed up by certain acts going on in the back of the kitchen by Mirren and “her lover.”

Full frontal. This is going to sound very hypocritical of me, especially after praising Helen Mirren’s nude form, but I was not a fan of full frontal scenes that involved Alan Howard’s character. Kudos to the guy for having the bravery to film those scenes, of course, but I just wasn’t a fan. Maybe it is just me not wanting to see a naked guy, as opposed to a naked woman, though.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover is one of those films that feels like it should be something more than it is. What I mean by that is this could very well have been done as a play on a stage for much less money, so why not do it that way, rather than subject us to 2 hours that cannot be recovered. I did not receive any enjoyment from this film. As a matter of fact, there were times when I was downright uncomfortable. As such, I do not recommend this, but I will say that this isn’t a bad picture. It just wasn’t for me.

3 out of 5 stars

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