Like Water for Chocolate (film)

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Like Water for Chocolate
Directed by Alfonso Arau
Produced by Alfonso Arau
Written by Laura Esquivel
Music by Leo Brouwer
Cinematography Steven Bernstein
Emmanuel Lubezki
Distributed by Miramax
Release date
  • 16 April 1992 (1992-04-16)
Running time
123 minutes
Country Mexico
Language Spanish
Box office $21.6 million (USA) [1]

Like Water for Chocolate (Spanish: Como Agua Para Chocolate) is a 1992 Mexican film in the style of magical realism based on the popular novel, published in 1989 by first-time Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel.[2] It earned ten Ariel Awards including the Best Picture and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film became the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the United States at the time.[3] The film was selected as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 65th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[4][5]


The film opens with a young woman reading a recipe from a book. She begins to narrate a story about her great aunt Tita. Mama Elena is cooking in the kitchen with the house cook, Nacha, when her water breaks. She gives birth on the kitchen table. Mama Elena's husband goes out to celebrate the birth of his daughter when he is told that his wife has been unfaithful to him. Shocked he suffers a heart attack and dies. Mama Elena tells Nacha that she can no longer have any more children and that her youngest child, Tita, will never marry but instead stay home to take care of her until her death. Mama Elena's two oldest daughters Rosaura and Gertudis will however be able to marry. As Tita grows Nacha teaches her all responsibilities of running a kitchen. In 1910 Tita has grown into a beautiful young woman and has fallen in love with a young man named Pedro. Pedro confesses his love to Tita and offers his hand in marriage. Tita tells her Mama Elena about Pedro, only for Mama Elena to aggressively reinforce Tita's permanent position in the home. The next day Pedro arrives with his father to officially ask Mama Elena for Tita's hand in marriage. Mama Elena explains her reasoning for not accepting the marriage proposal and instead offers Rosaura's hand. Pedro accepts the offer, Tita is devastated, Gertrudis is annoyed, and Rosaura is excited about the marriage. While making the wedding cake with Nacha, an unconsolable Tita continuously cries and her tears fall into the cake batter. After the wedding ceremony, Pedro tells Tita that he married Rosaura to be close to her. After seeing Tita and Pedro talking to each other, Mama Elena threatens Tita to stay away from Pedro. Later, when the guests begin to eat the wedding cake, everyone is overcome with sadness of the loss of their true loves and becomes physically sick. Mama Elena runs into the house to look at a picture of the man she had an affair with. Tita finds Nacha dead holding a picture of her deceased husband.

Months later, Rosaura becomes pregnant. Pedro gives Tita a bouquet of roses in front of Mama Elena and Rosaura. Mama Elena demands that Tita throw them away, but Tita uses the roses in a quail sauce that evening for dinner. Upon eating the dinner, Pedro, Gertrudis and Mama Elena are filled with sensual and romantic passion, and Rosaura becomes ill. After dinner, Pedro and Tita watch as Gertrudis runs off with a rebel leader. Tita tells Mama Elena that Gertrudis was kidnapped by the rebels. Believing that Gertrudis is now a ruined woman, Mama Elena burns Gertrudis' belongings and bans everyone from speaking her name. However, Tita has been secretly communicating with Gertrudis and sends her the rest of her belongings.

Rosaura gives birth to a sickly son named Roberto. Tita personally nurses Roberto and his health shows improvement. Mama Elena becomes increasingly suspicious of Tita and Pedro's activities. Believing that Tita and Pedro are having an affair, Mama Elena sends Pedro and Rosaura away to Texas. Without Tita's care, Roberto becomes sick and dies. Chencha, a housemaid, informs Tita and Mama Elena. Tita is devastated resulting in an outburst at Mama Elena. Mama Elena responds by hitting Tita in the face with a wooden spoon causing her nose to bleed.

Tita runs into the house attic and stays there for a few days. Dr. John Brown, a family doctor, takes Tita to his home in Texas to treat her. Chencha visits Tita when she is well and Tita tells her that she will not be returning to Mama Elena. Dr. Brown becomes attracted to Tita and proposes to her. Tita accepts his marriage proposal. Bandits invade Mama Elena's home and attack the servants. Chencha is raped and Mama Elena is murdered. Tita returns home for Mama Elena's funeral. While going through Mama Elena's belongings, Tita discovers evidence of Mama Elena's past love affair. It is implied that one of Tita's older sisters is the result of the affair. Pedro and a pregnant Rosaura return for Mama Elena's funeral. Rosaura gives birth to a healthy baby girl named Esperanza. As a result, Rosaura is unable to have more children. Keeping with the family tradition, Rosaura states that Esperanza will never marry, to the dismay of Tita and Pedro. Upon finding out about Tita's engagement to Dr. Brown, Pedro becomes jealous. Pedro sneaks into Tita's room and they make love for the first time.

Tita becomes worried that she might be pregnant. She does not tell Pedro her concerns. One night during a dinner party, Gertrudis, now a General in the rebellion, returns home bringing along her husband Juan Alejandrez and his band of rebels. Tita confides in Gertrudis of her worries. Gertrudis encourages Tita to tell Pedro. Pedro walks in on the conversation and Tita is forced to tell him her concerns. Tita discovers that she is not pregnant and decides to continue with the engagement to Dr. Brown. Pedro objects to this decision and threatens to tell Dr. Brown about their one-night stand. Tita remorsefully tells Dr. Brown of her affair with Pedro and apologizes for hurting him. Dr. Brown accepts her apology and states that he still wants to be with her but he will accept whatever decision she makes of their relationship. After being confronted by Rosaura about her affair with Pedro, Tita decides to stay at the family house to prevent Rosaura from enforcing the family tradition on Esperanza, ending her engagement with Dr. Brown. Some time later, Rosaura dies of an intestinal illness.

Years later Esperanza marries Alex Brown, Dr. Brown's son. Tita and Pedro return to the family house together. While making love, Pedro has a heart attack and dies. Devastated, Tita commits suicide by swallowing matches. The room catches on fire and fire spreads throughout the entire property. The young woman narrating reveals that she is the daughter of Esperanza. She reveals that when Esperanza returned home from her honeymoon to find the property burned to ashes she discovered Tita's cook book, which she kept and passed down to her daughter.




Differing gender roles and values are central to the de la Garza family. The film complicates the roles that tradition expects Tita, Getrudis, and Rosaura to play. Tita, a maternal caretaker, breaks tradition; Gertrudis embodies the duality of the male and the female; and Rosaura, an upholder of the traditional female role, fails to fulfil it. Rosaura strives to be a traditional female matron. She marries her sister Tita’s one true love Pedro and adopts the role of wife. Her primary duties are to cook, to clean, and to take care of her children. The problem is that she cannot cook, cannot clean, and cannot nurse her own baby. Next to bend her gender is Gertrudis, offspring of an illicit affair between Mama Elena and her paramour. We know from early on that Gertrudis does not fit the ladylike mold. She is a tomboy, openly disagreeing with her mother and her traditional values. She encourages Tita to court Pedro even though he is married to their sister. When Tita’s emotions enter into the rose petal dish she serves the family for dinner, Gertrudis eats and becomes so aroused that her body begins to steam. She runs to the outhouse, her heat setting it on fire, and departs home on the back of a horse ridden by a soldier of the Mexican Revolution. When Gertrudis mysteriously returns one night, we learn that she is a soldier fighting in the Revolution. Married to the man on the horse, she now commands her husband’s troops. Tita is her sisters’ opposite. She is a caretaker and family cook. Everyone loves her cooking and Tita miraculously serves as nursemaid to Rosaura’s baby, since Rosaura is unable to produce milk. (When Pedro and Rosaura move away, the baby dies because Rosaura could not nurse it.) The differing gender roles give each character depth and significance, highlighting the opposites at work in each sister . In doing so the film displays strong women breaking barriers and redefining what it means to be a female.[6]


Tradition is central to this movie. Tita, Gertrudis and the Mexican Revolution itself all fight against it. The movie's main conflict is a family tradition which forbids the youngest daughter from marrying so that she will be free to take care of her mother.[6] This requirement sets up a battle between Tita and her mother, Mama Elena. Tita struggles to live her own life; Mama Elena fights to keep Tita at home. So fierce is Mama Elena's desire to uphold tradition that she orders her oldest daughter, Rosaura, to marry Pedro, Tita's one true love. Gertrudis, the middle child, and offspring of an illicit affair between Mama Elena and her lover, runs away from home and joins the people fighting to end the dictatorship and corruption afflicting the common folk of Mexico. Tired of the tradition that only the wealthy landowners had wealth and power, the people revolted, fighting for the workers of the land.[7] Gertrudis' battle against the government parallels the battle between Tita and Elena. Both fight for change. In the war Gertrudis becomes a leader of an all-male rebel group. The men both listen and respect her. Gertrudis challenges tradition and becomes a successful leader. Tita's challenge to tradition will also be successful and portends successful change for Mexico.

On the other hand, while tradition serves well to help pass down a family’s customs or even cultural customs, often times tradition can often be viewed negatively and tear families and society apart because of how it can mistreat those in society who deviate from tradition. Mexican culture has in fact long expressed this coerced marriage rule in which women opinions are left unconsidered, and as a result these traditions lead to the mistreatment of women.[8] This mistreatment also happens in the de la Garza family where the family tradition prevents the main character, Tita, from marrying Pedro due to the rule that the youngest daughter must not marry. Thus, breaking this specific tradition is a main theme within the film. One way this is represented in the film is through the character of Mama Elena as her oppressive and tyrannical force to Tita. Her character displays how corruptive traditions such as forced marriage hinders others and tears groups apart as Mama Elena does to Tita to prevent her from marrying Pedro.[3] However, with the help of Tita’s magical cooking that eventually breaks the family free from tradition, Tita and her sister, Gertrudis, not only break barriers and the gender roles in their society, but it also helps to establish a tradition to start treating each other equally.

Filming locations[edit]


Like Water for Chocolate received positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91%, based on 32 reviews, and an average rating of 7.5/10.[9]

The American release of this film is quite shorter than the original Mexican version. In the original release, you see the main character Tita return home to take care of her dying mother; in the American release, this complete sequence is removed and instead Tita only returns home for her mother's funeral.[citation needed]


Ariel Awards[edit]

The Ariel Awards are awarded annually by the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences in Mexico. Como Agua Para Chocolate received ten awards out of 14 nominations.[10]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1992 Como Agua Para Chocolate Best Picture Won
Alfonso Arau Best Director Won
Mario Iván Martínez Best Actor Won
Regina Torné Best Actress Won
Lumi Cavazos Nominated
Claudette Maillé Best Supporting Actress Won
Pilar Aranda Nominated
Joaquín Garrido Best Actor in a Minor Role Nominated
Margarita Isabel Best Actress in a Minor Role Won
Laura Esquivel Best Screenplay Won
Emmanuel Lubezki Best Cinematography Won
Carlos Bolado and Francisco Chiú Best Editing Nominated
Emilio Mendoza, Gonzalo Ceja and Ricardo Mendoza Best Production Design Won
Marco Antonio Arteaga, Carlos Brown, Mauricio De Aguinaco and Denise Pizzini Best Set Design Won

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1992 Como Agua Para Chocolate Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Like Water for Chocolate (1993)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 20 August 2017. 
  2. ^ "Laura Esquivel Biography". Retrieved 20 August 2017. [permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b Neibylski, Dianna C (1998). "Heartburn, Humor and Hyperbole in Like Water for Chocolate". In Hengen, Shannon. Performing Gender and Comedy: Theories, Texts and subtext. Routledge. p. 189. ISBN 90-5699-539-1. .
  4. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  5. ^ Marx, Andy (2 December 1992). "Foreign Oscar entries submitted". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Finnegan, N. (1999). At Boiling Point: Like Water for Chocolate and the Boundaries of Mexican Identity. Bulletin of Latin American Research, 18:3, 311-326.
  7. ^ EDSITEment, (2010). The Mexican Revolution: November 20th, 1910. Retrieved from
  8. ^ Frías, Sonia M. (2017-03-10). "Family and Partner Violence Against Women: Forced Marriage in Mexican Indigenous Communities". International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family. 31 (1): 60–78. doi:10.1093/lawfam/ebw014. ISSN 1360-9939. 
  9. ^ "Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua para Chocolate) (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 10, 2018. 
  10. ^ "XXXIV 1992 — Ganadores y nominados" (in Spanish). Asociación Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas. 1992. Retrieved October 20, 2016. 

External links[edit]