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“Like Water for Chocolate” and “Maria Full of Grace”

The films “Like Water for Chocolate” and “Maria Full of Grace” display the struggles young women go through in a society that terribly exploits them in the disguise of tradition and respectability. Because of this, they have to make choices that they will use to pursue what they want in life. Some of the choices and decisions they make lead them to risk their lives and those of their loved ones.

‘Frida’ is a film that celebrates the art and life of Frida Kahlo visually. It is directed by Julie Taymor and is a vanity project for Frida, also known as Salma Hayek. The film covers the life of Frida from her youth through her popularity as an artist. It revolves around her resonant life and work. It is a chronological account of her life and career. It looks at the choices she makes throughout her life in terms of her career, marriage, performances, colleagues, friends and sex issues. After the accident, Frida makes a choice not be constrained by the crippling effects of polio, injuries from the bus accident, marriage issues, social convention and sex. Instead, she puts her talent and skill to use and becomes a successful artist.  Just like ‘Water for Chocolate and ‘Maria full of grace,’ ‘Frida’ is a Film about the choices made by a woman and the effects of this choice on her life (Russell 50).

The film “Like Water for Chocolate” is set on a small ranch in Mexico; it is a passionate and romantic love story that revolves around two characters, Pedro and Tita. The title of the film has been equated to the steaming point of water for hot chocolate with passion and love.  The mood of the film is expressed as sweet, playful and odd. Tita falls in love with Pedro, unfortunately, she is forbidden to marry or have children because of a family tradition. Tita is expected to wait for her oldest sisters to get married first as she remains at home taking care of her ageing mother until she dies.  Initially Tita had agreed to abide by this tradition until she fell in love with Pedro. Mama Elena, Tita’s mother asserts, “...no youngest daughter has ever married, and her daughter will not be the first to break that tradition”.  

Tita’s heart is broken when her mother suggests Pedro to marry Tita’s oldest sister Rosaura. Pedro agrees to marry Rosaura not because he loves her but because he hoped he will have an opportunity to be close to Tita. Tita has to make a tough choice of allowing the love of her life Pedro to marry her elder sister and reside with them in the same building. It is clear in the film that her mother cannot forbid the love they share as she did their marriage. Another tough decision that befalls Tita comes when she is forced to bake a wedding cake for her sister. She bakes the cake with passion and despair hence the effect of sadness it had on the guests who partook at the wedding (Giannotti 120).

Tita’s frustrated desires are directed to the creation of delicious meals she prepares that have a strange effect on her family. Her domain is assumed to be in the kitchen because when she was born her mother was not able to look out for her. Thus, she was left in the care of the family’s cook, Nacha. This explains why her joy was in the delight of food. Tita chooses to obey her mother when she orders her to throw away the roses Pedro had given her. Tita expresses her love to Pedro through her cooking as she makes a beautiful sauce from the petals before throwing them away. The choices that Tita makes including the rebellion against her mother’s domination are justified as she shows an exploration of a woman’s search for identity and fulfillment.

Tita chooses to conform to the traditions that largely stereotype the women in her society. She decides to conform to some traditions because she finds satisfaction in traditional roles like cooking.  Her conformity to these traditions limits her despite being submissive to her mother. She wants more out of life leading to rebellion. Tita’s rebellion is shown when she blames her mother for the death of Rosaura’s child. Tita’s choice of getting into a relationship with Dr. Brown and almost marrying him was not a good choice, as she could not shake off her feelings for Pedro. The choices Tita makes show the struggle and triumph in pursuit of love and individuality. This is shown when she supports the decision to let Esperanza, Rosaura’s daughter, to make her own choices about her future. Rosaura had decided that her daughter will not marry so that she takes care of her (Giannotti 105).

Pedro’s choice to marry Rosaura was intended to keep him close to Tita. This is a selfish choice as it promotes only his personal ambitions in his quest to get as much as he wants. This is seen as a motive to satisfy his physical desires and marry into a well of family.  The two have an affair without the knowledge of Rosaura. Despite his effort to fight for Tita, Pedro’s love for her is ignited by jealousy and lust. Pedro confesses to Tita that he still loves her during a wedding reception of Esperanza and Dr. Brown’s son. He tells her of how he has dreamt of their wedding day and that he wants to marry her. After Rosaura’s death, Pedro and Tita get together and make love in a candle-lit in a barn.

Pedro lacks imagination, which is also a character trait of Rosaura. Unlike Rosaura Pedro does not abide by the set rules in the society. Pedro is shown as one cannot fight with situations straight as he resorts to cheat.  Unlike Tita who is a role model to Esperanza in terms of being a creative and talented provider, Pedro does not leave any legacy or accomplish anything of his own.  Tita’s love for Pedro changes her, but his love for her does not change him as he assumes that Tita’s love is based on lust and physical longing.

In the film “Like Water for Chocolate” Mama Elena is shown as a dictator. She makes the rules and defends them with tradition. Some of these traditions are seen to be her making, as they did not seem to apply on her. The choices she makes are the main sources of Tita’s suffering.  Her action to separate Tita from her true love Pedro is a selfish act as it is revealed later in the film that it is a result of her suffering from a lost love that made her life bitter. The choice to take Pedro away from Tita by sending him and Rosaura to Texas was not good as it resulted in Mama Elena being blamed for the death of Pedro’s son.  This leads her to smack Tita with a wooden spoon breaking her nose. Mama Elena’s efforts to keep Tita away from Pedro lead her into institutionalizing Tita calling her a lunatic.  Even after her death, Mama Elena’s ghost was still fighting to keep the two apart by appearing and scolding Tita for her relationship with Pedro and cursing her presumed pregnancy.  Her anger causes her to shrink into a light that falls on Pedro and sets him on fire.  It is clear that most of the choices Mama Elena makes are selfish and destructive.

Tita is principled and makes her own decisions, but Rosaura is different. Most of her ideas are from Mama Elena. Rosaura’s choice to marry Pedro was not her initiative as she married him only because her mother said so and not because she loved him. Rosaura lacks imagination and passion. She marries Pedro with the full knowledge that he wanted to marry Tita and does not respond the delicious food made by Tita. She is aware of Tita’s love for Pedro but still asks her to help her win Pedro’s affection. Although Rosaura is incompetent, lack authority and is inacceptable of love she is shown in the film as successful, in her own right. Unlike Tita, she lives comfortably, marries and has children. The use of tradition, which is a basic element of culture and necessary in every human society, makes the story in the film real. The film shows how the characters change and that once revealed true love cannot be held back (Miller, Vandome and McBrewster 85).

The film “Maria Full of Grace” depicts a rural life of Columbia. The title is a reference to the Roman Catholic figure. It is a story of a seventeen year old Columbian girl Maria Alvarez working on a flower plantation.  She lives with her grandmother, mother, sister and her baby nephew. She has few prospects as most of her earnings from the flower plantation goes towards supporting her unemployed sister and her baby. Like the character Tita in the film “Like Water for Chocolate”, Maria portrays the struggles and efforts of a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. Like Tita, Maria is shown as a young woman whose efforts lead to her supporting, inspiring and changing the society. Her determination to survive and have a future is defined by what she wants and not what she rejects. She makes a choice to move forward and is not stopped by the crisis she goes through.

Unlike Rosaura in the film “Like Water for Chocolate”, Maria refuses to conform to a system or tradition that rations everything.  Maria is fearless and spirited thus refuses to live in a society that would keep her in a small, limited place. This is shown in her clashes with her family as she speaks out and fights for what she wants.  The decision of Maria to quit from work abruptly and her refusal to apologize is not a good choice and it leads her into becoming a mule.  Like Rosaura in the film “Like Water for Chocolate”, Juan, Maria’s boyfriend wants to marry her not because he loves her but because that is what he is supposed to do. Maria refuses to be married by Juan. The characters Maria in the film “Maria Full of Grace” and Tita in the film “Like Water for Chocolate” desire love; they are fighting to be loved and to love (Miller, Vandome and McBrewster 95).

Aware of the risks involved, Maria accepts an offer to work as a drug trafficker into the United States.  She is convinced by Franklin, who compared to Juan is more stylish and self-assured.  Her vital factor is money, as she will earn up to five thousand dollars for only one trip. Unlike her friend Blanca who became a mule for the love of money and the fun of it, Maria aims to have the money and support her family and give her unborn baby a better life. Due to her determination to be independent, Maria is attracted to Lucy who has worked as a mule twice before. Lucy is independent economically and has an uncluttered home.  She accepts the risk of swallowing sixty-two pellets of heroin that might burst in her stomach and kill her or harm her baby. With her caring character trait, Maria becomes angry when she learns that Blanca, her friend, has also accepted money to become a mule.  

Maria is intelligent, hence having an understanding and grace that she uses to carry her through the new life after the incident at the New Jersey motel where Lucy had died after the traffickers cut her open to remove the drug pellet.  The choice by Maria to become a mule was not good as the risks involved were severe. Unlike the Blanca, her naïve friend, Maria’s character promises a bright future in America when she chooses not to travel back to Columbia.  Maria experiences several acts of grace in the film such as, surviving the Customs interrogation, helping Lucy ease while in the plane, receiving refuge at Carla’s apartment, the drug pellet not affecting her baby and the grace to support her family (Russell 70).

The friends and girls I have come across who are victims of being lured into drug trafficking have genuine needs they need to take care of such as early pregnancies. This choice has lead many of them to die because of being overdosed or brutally attacked by the drug dealers.  Many young girls’ life paths are controlled and determined by what the family tradition sees fit for them. The society has already stereotyped that the women belong in the, kitchen and they can be denied the right to marry or love whom they want. I have experienced incidences where a family members dictate who to marry and from which family.

Today many immigrant girls are lured into trafficking with the promise of making quick money which in most cases leads them to leading frustrated lives and the risks of prostitution and death. However, the films bring out a phenomenon of feminine power from actions such as preparation of food, individual expression and culture.  The film Maria Full of Grace brings out the negative impact of the Drug Trade in the United States and the Latin America. Maria like many of the girls I have seen is not a drug user but does this to support herself and her family. The economic and personal reality of drug trade is clear in the film.

In conclusion, the circumstances of the characters in the two films are real life situations in the society as they give a sense of hope.  The films have made the characters ordinary thus allowing the audience to identify with them.  The film “Like Water for Chocolate” has used the magic realism of food that reveals the significant aspects of human and their everyday situations. The comparison between the Colombia’s cash crop exports and the drug trafficking is a depiction of how the workers are exploited.

Custom Films' Review Essay

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