Dream Come True

As I've already mentioned, I have higher standards for documentaries than I might have for other types of movies. I freely admit I can be pretty picky about the non-fictional subject matter I want to consume. There's no guarantee that I'll enjoy a movie, even if I enjoy the subject matter, but starting with a topic that intrigues me is always a good start.

There was never any question about whether I'd watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi or not. The second I heard of this movie's existence, it went on my list. Sushi happens to be an obsession of mine, and so of course I was immediately interested in hearing about an eighty-five year old sushi chef who has become a national treasure in Japan, akin to what Julia Child is to us Americans. Naturally, the movie delves into Sukiyabashi Jiro's background, his work ethic, and his restaurant's perfect, three-star Michelin rating, all of which was absolutely fascinating.

That kind of information would go into any biographical documentary, though. What makes this movie special are the additional stories it develops. Sourcing good fish is an essential part of top-quality sushi, and I heartily enjoyed seeing the visits to the local fish markets, where vendors are often insanely knowledgeable, but only about one particular type of fish. The background info on the underchefs in the kitchen, and the amount of work and dedication they have to put into their careers was also amazing to watch; some of them are made to work for a decade before they're allowed anywhere near certain menu items.

What really makes this film extraordinary, though, is the familial relationships of Jiro and his two sons. He trained both of them in a very strict, traditional Japanese manner. The eldest patiently serves at his father's side, ready to accept the mantle of responsibility once Jiro retires (or dies - one gets the sense that the sweet embrace of the grave is the only thing that will keep him from his kitchen). He accepts this role without question; it's the only thing he's ever been groomed for. And yet, he also knows that his father is the one that carries the reputation. He readily admits that he'll have to be twice as skilled as his father ever was to keep the customers once he's in charge. The younger son opened a sushi restaurant of his own, and purposely makes it a much more laid-back experience than his father's location. He's more than willing to make less money in order to avoid having to live up to an impossible standard.

This almost monarchical story, combined with seemingly endless beauty shots of the sushi itself, kept me totally enraptured. Even those who do not like sushi would find much to enjoy in this as purely a movie, but for those of us who would sell our plasma for some tasty unagi, this film is pitch perfect.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi: A-


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