DOWNTOWN — “Toast” is the first film to come to America in a new independent series called From Britain with Love. Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the UK Film Council, and Emerging Pictures, the six-film series will be screened one a weekend from June 18 to July 24 at the Laemmle Theaters in Santa Monica, Encino, Pasadena, and Claremont.
“Toast,” a melancholy coming-of-age movie, premiered on British TV on BBC1 in June 2010. Based on the memoir of popular English chef and food writer Nigel Slater, it chronicles the boyhood of a lonely, gay young man growing up in the Midlands. His mother (played by Virginia Hamilton) is a perpetually anxious and rather dreary woman who dies of asthma when Nigel is 9. His father (Ken Stott) is a grumpy, off-putting man who nevertheless puts up with solitary dinners of toast, which is the only thing his wife can cook without ruining.
After her death, however, the household is literally taken over by Mrs. Potter (a blowsy blonde Helena Bonham Carter), who cleans the house on her hands and knees while wearing spiked heels and seamed nylons. (She also manages to smoke and wiggle her behind while she scrubs.)
But she can cook. To a household that never ate a vegetable that didn’t come out of a can, she brings extravagant multi-course meals and exotic desserts that quickly seduce the elder Slater.
Nigel, who has never been able to attract his father’s attention or affection, is appalled to learn that the way to a man’s heart is really through his stomach. And so he devotes himself to learning to cook in an attempt to vanquish Mrs. Potter, whom he considers coarse and common. Which, of course, she is. But it is a battle he can never win.
S.J. Clarkson directs the small cast smoothly and makes the frustration of the boy Nigel (Oscar Kennedy) and the grown-up young man Nigel (Freddie Highmore) both moving and engaging. And he has set them in that bucolic landscape of nostalgia and greenery so familiar to lovers of English period dramas.
Nigel Slater’s best-selling book has been adapted for the screen by Lee Hall, who also wrote the screenplay for “Billy Elliott” and for Stephen Spielberg’s “War Horse.”
“Toast,” which will screen on June 18 and 19 at 11 a.m. is the first of the six films in the series.
• ”In Our Name” starring Joanne Froggatt, named Most Promising Newcomer at the 2010 British Independent Film Awards, about a soldier returning home after serving in Iraq, on June 25 and 26.
• “Africa United,” the story of three Rwandan children who walk 3,000 miles to the World Cup in South Africa, on July 2 and 3.
• “Third Star,” the story of a terminally ill young man whose three best friends take him on a hike to a secluded cove in Wales, on July 9 and 10.
• “NEDs” (Non-Educated Delinquents) on July 16 and 17.
• ”A Boy Called Dad,” about a boy who becomes a father at 14, on July 23 and 24.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.