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Critics' Pick

Chef Flynn (NR)

Documentary 83 min. November 9, 2018
By Alan Scherstuhl
Cameron Yates' intimate doc Chef Flynn is part celebration, part experiment, part cautionary tale, part drama of coming-of-age singular. Above all that, it's a mother's story, with Yates following not just Flynn McGarry but also Meg McGarry, a filmmaker herself, who has been documenting for years her son's culinary blossoming — and her encouragement.

Before puberty, Flynn only wanted to turn his bedroom into a kitchen. Mom let him, springing for good equipment, and we see Flynn, at age 11, tour-guiding us through his "bedroom slash kitchen slash workspace." And here are his dishes: a "deconstructed Caesar salad" with romaine, jicama slaw and a schmear of Parmesan jelly. Like many of Flynn's creations, this looked delectable, if somewhat fussily dazzling, a sculpted splat resembling the hat of some Seussian alien.

What sets this lively, engaging doc apart is that we see Flynn become a culinary star through the eyes of his mother, who at first encourages him, homeschooling the kid and helping him host lavish pop-up dinners from their Los Angeles home. Then she uncertainly indulges him, as his hobby boils over into a sensational career. She helps him take the pop-ups professional, charging $160 a head and up, sometimes in borrowed restaurants in other cities. More fascinating than the food, eventually, is Meg McGarry's conflicted pride and doubt -- she seems to spend a lot of time in the vanishing point between them. No gourmand herself, she says she sometimes wishes he'd just run a food truck, Flynn's Fillets. He's amusingly dismissive of her suggestions and qualms, in that amused/disgusted pleading way kids reserve for parents who are repeating themselves.
Cameron Yates Kino Lorber Films

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