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TIFF Review: ‘Julia’ Chronicles the Life and Times of a Food Icon

November 10, 2021Ben MK

From Masterchef to Nailed It!, there's no shortage of reality cooking shows where viewers can watch home chefs showcase their culinary skills — or, in some cases, lack thereof — not to mention an entire network dedicated to helping aspiring cooks master the art of making their favorite dishes. But when it comes to the origins of modern-day audiences' insatiable fascination with all things food-related, there's arguably one woman to whom the entire industry owes its existence. And her name is Julia Child.

Born in 1912, Julia McWilliams became Julia Child when she married photographer Paul Child, whom she met in Sri Lanka while they were both serving in the OSS during World War II. However, it wasn't till the couple moved to Paris that Julia began the journey that would transform her into a household name. Back then, being a chef was a male-dominated profession, so when Julia enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, it was to the dismay of many of her fellow students. Fast forward to 1962, and the reception to her appearance on a Boston public access TV program would be quite different. It was on that show that a 49-year-old Julia was promoting Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1, a book 12 years in the making that she co-wrote with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. And from there, Julia's popularity would continue to grow, as she parlayed her love of French cuisine into a career as an Emmy-winning television personality and author that would span the next four decades.

Using archival footage of Julia Child, as well as interviews with her friends, family and fellow food enthusiasts, directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West not only chronicle Julia's impressive professional achievements, but also her passion for women's rights and her activism for AIDS awareness. What stands out the most about Julia, though, isn't how much the food icon managed to accomplish in her 91 years, it's how she inspired and instilled the same zest for life in all those who admired her, proving that it's never too late to follow one's dreams.

Julia screened under the TIFF Docs programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and is in theaters November 12th in the US and November 26th in Canada. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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