Based on British celebrity chef Nigel Slater's memoir, S.J. Clarkson's adaptation is preoccupied with the wrong kind of taste. Nigel (played by Oscar Kennedy as a wide-eyed youngster, and Highmore as his appetites mature) is raised in a 1960s household, where tinned vegetables are favored over fresh produce and spaghetti bolognese is a suspiciously exotic dish. Although there's precious little food worth savoring, he still manages to equate cuisine with (mostly withheld) love, whether it's his mother's fallback of toasted bread or the meals he makes for his gruff father (Stott) after her death.
Nigel's attempts to work his way to his dad's heart through his stomach are thwarted by a cleaning woman (Bonham Carter), whose succulent dishes turn the father from employer to suitor. As the lad's culinary skills grow, their conflict grows more explicit; things come to a head over the issue of whether his lemon meringue can best that of his new stepmom.
The first-person source material might explain the one-sided account of the struggle, but the film is crippled by its underhanded treatment of Bonham Carter's character, including a healthy dose of unmitigated middle-class snobbery. Toast's glossy, dewy-eyed look at England's foodie dark ages is suffused with rosy nostalgia but surprisingly very little genuine feeling. It's the cinematic equivalent of wax fruit: Look, but don't bite.
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