Cannes 2012: ‘The Dish & the Spoon’ review


Alison Bagnall’s witty and original romance The Dish & the Spoon (2011) is a gutsy independent love story which belies its modest budget, whilst also showcasing Damsels in Distress (2011) star Greta Gerwig’s unique ability to be quirky, whilst also profoundly beautiful. After last year’s BFI LFF screening, it has also made the film market section of the 65th Cannes Film Festival.

Upon discovering that her husband has cheated on her, Rose (Gerwig) sets out in her pyjamas to hunt down the floozy who has destroyed her marriage. Her journey takes her to a boarded-up coastal town in Delaware where she used to enjoy family holidays in her parents’ dilapidated, yet comforting beach house. En-route she runs into a romantic and tragically hopeless English teenager (Olly Alexander). He soon attaches himself to Rose after they discover they’re both suffering from broken hearts. After becoming submerged in each other’s company, an unconventional relationship begins to blossom, creating a welcoming distraction from life’s woes which both these lost souls dearly need. However, with both fragile parties currently healing from emotional wounds, it only seems natural that their budding romance will eventually hit the rocks.

The Dish & the Spoon belongs to Gerwig and her charmingly idiosyncratic performance marks her out as an actress destined for great things. In life there are few things worse than the wrath of a woman scorned and Gerwig’s incredibly feral performance only enhances this belief. Olly Alexander fairs less well, seeming overly awkward in front of the camera. However, Bagnall’s direction manages to keep us focused on the eccentric adventures of her unusual couple, with the world around them existing in a timeless haze.

Unfortunately, this romantic drama works best with hindsight. Whilst its disjointed plot can at times seem a little jarring, it successfully lodges itself in your subconscious. Very much like recollecting fond memories of a love now lost, The Dish & the Spoon feels like a collection of lovingly remembered encounters sewn together to create a tapestry of better times.

Indeed, there is a dream-like quality to The Dish & the Spoon, something learnt by Rose towards the end of the film, as she soon realises that her regression into adolescence in order to escape her marital despair is only a short term cure. Whilst the dish may have run away with the spoon, the film gently reminds us that life is sadly not a fairytale, and behind each beautiful nursery rhyme (much like life in general), there are foundations of misery and despair which are sadly inescapable.

The 65th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 16-27 May, 2012. For more of our Cannes 2012 coverage, simply follow this link. 

Patrick Gamble