Movies: Mostly Martha

Directed by Sandra Nettelbeck

"I'm not compulsive. I'm precise," says Martha Klein (Martina Gedeck), chef of a ritzy Hamburg restaurant. Precise, sure, but her loveless life still needs a bit of leavening. That comes in two packages: her balky 8-year-old niece (Maxime Foerste) and a lavishly charming Italian sous-chef (Sergio Castellitto). The setup and payoff of this German export couldn't be more conventional, but Nettelbeck is a sharp observer of life's surprises, and Gedeck has an appraising, intelligent beauty. Her Martha is like the film: tart on the outside, sweet on the inside, with a delectable aftertaste. --By Richard Corliss

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