Panko-crusted salmon is the way to the heart in Annika Appelin’s debut feature, Tuesday Club – a dish described on the menu as ‘spicy’ but when it arrives, you realise the chef was referring to cinnamon. Despite its lack of heat, this is a film with sweet notes and familiar flavours (especially if you’re a divorced woman in later adulthood), that pairs nicely with a glass of chardonnay and the knowledge that life doesn’t stop at 60 – it just gets more muddled.
Karin (Marie Richardson) is catering her own ruby anniversary shindig while her husband (literally) fucks around in the background. Upon discovering a naughty picture on his recklessly unlocked phone, Karin confronts him. Unfortunately, he’s in the middle of a bouldering attempt on their house when she chooses her moment and the shock of being caught out (or perhaps the fact that seniors aren’t supposed to be upside down) causes him to fall and injure his spine. Rather than admitting the shame to her almost 40-year-old daughter, Fredrika (Ida Engvoll), Karin keeps quiet and decides to move on with her life on the side.
A chance meeting at the hospital with an old school friend, Monika (Carina M Johansson), leads to one of the livelier nights Karin has had in the past 20 years. They drink, indulge in the Japanese-Swedish fusion delights of renowned chef Henrik (Peter Stormare) and even sign up to his cooking class, along with mutual friend, Pia (Sussie Ericsson). In a diabolical move, Karin reschedules her regular Tuesday swimming session to accommodate this cooking class, and so begins the Tuesday Club – three women, one dream (limited by startup capital) and one too many car sing-alongs to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
The girls’ enthusiasm wavers slightly when they arrive at Gyoza for Grannies; Henrik’s demeanour is more Gordon Ramsay than Guy Fieri and it’s clear that this is little more than a paycheck gig. But Karin’s determination not to waste her investment (nor any more of her life) is stronger than his pout; with a little patience and a conservative amount of sass, the cold, Scandi heart of her tutor melts as Karin finds herself with another passion to pursue.
Tuesday Club reminds me of why I’m yet to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (despite insistence from the baby boomers in my life that it’s “hilarious”). Ageism aside, the tag of Feel-Good Foodie Comedy does pretty much describe what’s in the box: close-ups of carefully placed saffron, new friends re-discovering old pastimes and biddies forging beautifully strong connections when various aspects of their lives let them down. While it may not trigger salivation in the same way that Chef or Julie & Julia manage to, Appelin’s film is more concerned with a woman’s decision to finally get back on the path that was obscured by marriage and children.
The scenes with the most punch are those featuring hard talks between Fredrika and Monika (the ‘Samantha’ of the group, if you will). As Fredrika deals with the daunting prospect of turning 40 (and the further humiliation of actually celebrating it), Monika’s worldly advice over a shared joint makes all the difference for the socially awkward horse girl. It’s all the more special when considering the fact that Monika chose a childfree life; Appelin celebrates all of her characters’ decisions equally and the trio spend little time talking about kids and husbands, and more figuring out the logistics of setting up a catering business.
Where Tuesday Club loses its flavour is in the apparent romance between its leads. Cooked up on one of those electric coil stoves that landlords love, the chemistry between Richardson and Stormare is severely lacking. It seems odd that, on multiple occasions, Karin and Henrik find themselves engaging in hasty sexual encounters near open windows; perhaps the reason they don’t get caught is that no one (including the audience) wants to watch them.
Having been in the unfortunate acoustic position of discovering that parents over the age of 55 do not turn celibate (an experience I’m sorry to share with the hordes of traumatised young people who left the nest a little late), it’s possible that my distaste for Karin and Henrik’s intimacy comes from a place of unfair repulsion. But gyoza should be seared and emit aromas that can be transmitted through the screen and in this case, they’ve been chucked in the microwave and left to wilt on a cold, soy-sauceless plate.
At the very least, Tuesday Club is an endearing look at the lives of the oft-forgotten: older women (sometimes mothers, sometimes not) whose hobbies and vocations arrive better late than never. It’s an easy weekday watch and a fine first attempt from a former script supervisor (Appelin worked on Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt and Susanne Bier’s A Second Chance) and likely to be a crowd-pleaser for a certain demographic.
In scoring Tuesday Club, I am accounting for the inevitable morph into my mother that will take place over the next 30 years. I suspect, by then, it will be a solidly fun watch. 6/10.
Tuesday Club will be ready on August 25.