“It’s all about the right chemistry,” says leading lady and chef Nina Shah (Shelly Conn) as she carefully instructs her romantic interest, Lisa MacKinlay (Laura Fraiser) in the fine art of Indian cooking.
If it’s all about chemistry, Nina’s Heavenly Delights has it. Conn and Fraiser have great on-screen charisma together, garnished by a cast of well-played supporting characters, excellent dialogue and a heartwarming multicultural love story.
The film revolves around Nina, the daughter of a restaurateur in Scotland, and her family, originally from India. Nina returns home after a three-year absence, having run from an arranged marriage, to attend her father’s funeral. Upon her homecoming she finds her father has gambled away half of her family’s Indian curry restaurant, the New Taj, to Lisa’s father, a friend of the family, who intends to sell it to a rival restaurateur.
Nina, who doesn’t want to sell her father’s legacy, convinces Lisa that they will get a better price for the place if they win the Best of the West Curry Contest, which her father won two years running. Lisa agrees, and the two set about trying to create dishes that could win them the title.
The ensuing story line is a semi-erotic, food-is-love adventure into the kitchen. The tension between Nina and Lisa is delightful as the two attempt to win the competition while trying to keep their illicit affair from the rest of the family. The film falters in the middle, suffering from some strange pacing and seemingly illogical plot twists. The cumulative effect is to leave the viewer unpleasantly bewildered on one hand, and snickering at the transparent excuses to increase tension between the characters on the other. The main plot-line is hackneyed and over-done, but teasing dialogue and romantic tension serve to make the film pleasantly fuzzy in a stay-at-home-in-your-pajamas-on-a-Sunday-afternoon kind of way.
Despite being desperately cheesy (or deliciously cheesy) Nina’s Heavenly Delights is both heartwarming and entertaining. With a host of characters and romantic subplots, both gay and straight, it’s got a little something for everybody who’s romantic at heart.