Though it’s a little overdone, ‘Sugar and Stars’ is a sweet French foodie movie based on a true against-the-odds tale

Eat this: Riadh Belaïche plays an ambitious young chef in ‘Sugar and Stars’.

SUGAR AND STARS (A LA BELLE ETOILE) *** (110 minutes; subtitled) M
Here’s a sweet treat for those looking for some low-key counter-programming during the combined onslaught of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

With one foot planted in social realism and the other in the competitive culinary world, Sugar and Stars is a fact-based feel-good foodie movie from France telling of an under-privileged kid called Yazid who dares to dream of being a great dessert chef, which is way beyond his presumed station in life.

Flitting between the homes of a loving foster family and his rotten, welfare-cheating mother, Yazid (Riadh Belaïche) finds solace in the artistry of food creation at an early age.

His ambition to be the best drives him through his troubled teenhood where bad influences and distractions abound, hampering his ability to intern at a posh hotel restaurant 180 kilometres away.

It’s a tough row to hoe, but support from his social worker and food-loving professionals who recognize his talent fortify Yazid’s spirits enough for him to deal with various obstacles, including one particularly nasty kitchen rival.

Based on the 2016 biography of world champion pastry chef Yazid Ichemrahen, Sugar and Stars chimes in as a pleasing, modest against-the-odds tale of perseverance and self-worth.

With heavy use of flashbacks and solid direction from Sébastien Tulard it doesn’t take long to warm to Yazid’s quest to defy the destiny others have set for him.

Most heartening is the film’s stress on the value a circle of support can have on a struggling youth. Though things do get a little clammy at times, there are nonetheless some touching moments as people lend Yazid a helpful hand.

As with most food-based movies and TV shows – and aren’t there a lot of them – we are regaled with inevitable food porn photography, with extreme slow-motion close-ups of powder splashes, oozing creams and dripping sauces.

As overdone as they are – do we really need to see mouths biting into over-ripe desserts? – they serve as a fitting counter to the harshness of Yazid’s life at home and on the street.

Also overdone is the finale, as Yazid joins a team representing France in a big bake-off. Still, it works well enough to end this well-told tale on a neat up-tempo beat.