Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Review: Julia

Written by Maria Athayde


Julia directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, who were nominated for best documentary feature for RBG in 2019, chronicles the life of American icon and chef Julia Child. Much like RBG this is an extremely paint by numbers documentary that does not offer the audience anything new. In fact, I would suggest that the majority of audiences would be better off reading Julia Child’s wikipedia page, watching the 2009 Julie & Julia feature based on Julia’s life or reading her autobiography, which she co-authored with her nephew, called My Life in France. I am certain that all those alternatives will provide much better value for those that want to get to know Julia. 

Toronto International Film Festival 2021

The biggest misstep is that everything we see in this documentary is surface-level and predictable. First, we get to know Julia before she became a culinary icon. Then we explore Julia’s role in the Office of Strategic Services during WWII. Next, the filmmakers discuss the time she spent in France, her subsequent success and love for food. Unfortunately, all these events are glossed over and there is no clear throughline that makes this documentary flow as a cohesive piece, nor did it keep me interested.

The more I watch documentaries and get to cover them for the website the more aware I am that I want something different. A simple summary, archival footage, and testimonies throughout the documentary often do not add anything new to stories. I unquestionably believe Julia’s story and stories like hers should be told. For example, In an interview about the film to The Wrap the directors mentioned how the pandemic had brought them closer to Julia. Perhaps focusing on more unconventional points like these or trying to tie Julia’s story to the present would have made a more compelling narrative.

Julia Trailer

Julia was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival and opens in New York & Los Angeles November 5th.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

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