Director Mariko Bobrik’s The Taste of Pho is a slice of life film about family, acculturation, and food. Long (Thang Long Do), a widower and Vietnamese ex-pat living in Warsaw. He struggles to assimilate to Polish culture while raising his daughter Maja (Lena Nguyen). Maja, comfortable in her new home, begins to push back against her Vietnamese roots. Long works as the chef in a small, local restaurant specializing in pho. His boss sells the restaurant to a business developer, and Long must learn to make the more trendy sushi and Thai cuisines. This functions as another reminder to Long of the loss of his heritage.
This is a cute little film. While it has its heavy moments, overall it is light, fluffy and somewhat funny. Like many slice of life movies however, it does tend to lose focus and meander from time to time. It occasionally goes off on little tangents, which, while most of them get some sort of payoff by the end, those payoffs don’t necessarily justify the detours.
The acting in The Taste of Pho didn’t stand out to me all that much. Certainly not because it was bad – it was all perfectly adequate – but aside from Maja (who will occasionally throw a tantrum), almost every character is at the same level throughout the entire film. When Long is sad, angry, or amused, he’s always completely mild and downplaying his feelings. I don’t imagine that this is a lack of ability on the actor’s part, just how the director wanted him to portray the character. But as this is true of most of the characters, it robs the film of a little needed dynamism.
The Taste of Pho is a little slow and meandering, but ultimately it is a cute and endearing family film.