‘Tortilla Soup’ (2001): It’s all About Family and Food


This isn’t something that will immediately catch your eye when looking for a new flick. But Tortilla Soup is actually one of the better independent films you can, for two hours, enjoy.

Tortilla Soup (2001) Film Review

Sunday dinner is a no-break tradition in the Naranjo family. Widowed during the important years of his three young girls’ lives, Martin (Hector Elizondo), and his now three grown daughters continue to reside together in the home where he raised them. But for lack of reasonable conversation, they may as well be miles apart. Still, he expects them each to participate in the elaborate, home-cooked meal he prepares each week. An event that always seems to bring out the worst in everyone.

Youngest daughter, Maribel (Tamara Mello) is a free-spirit High Schooler unsure of her plans. Eldest, Leticia (Elizabeth Pena) is the complete opposite. Responsible and sensible to a fault, but she keeps busy as a chemistry teacher. It’s the middle daughter, Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors) who clashes most with her stubborn father, perhaps because they are so much alike.

‘Tortilla Soup’ (2001) - It's all About Family and Food. A review of the film with Hector Elizondo and Elizabeth Pena. All review text © Rissi JC

When I finally saw this film (years after its release), “foodies” films was something of a trend. This low-budget story wasn’t well-received nor does it have the typical acclaim, regardless, there is something unique about its premise. Perhaps it’s the way in which it tells its story that makes it irresistible.

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Tortilla Soup is a re-make of a foreign film, and while I cannot speak to its virtues, I can discuss my thoughts on this 2001 version. What’s different about this is the fact that it really does focus on the food and the preparation that goes into it. This leaves little to no room for the usual more complex character development. In fact, the opening credits offer up a quick introduction to the four main characters and all without telling us who they really are because the star really is the food. 

Eventually, we see more of them, but for the majority of the story, it’s ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. I’m about as far from a gourmet cook as one can be, but do enjoy cooking, so seeing “foodie” screenplay is interesting. The smallest least insignificant ingredients serve a purpose in Martin’s dishes. From the blossoms one usually rips off the end of homegrown squash to making a utensil to brush butter onto food out of an edible substance, everything looks phenomenal.

While the delicious meals may make you hungry, there are a few flaws in an otherwise good production. Most of the scenes are sweet; in particular the scenes between the three sisters. These rare moments brighten the mood of any scene and offer a sense of authentic realism. There are some simple joys that remind us to take life as it comes and to enjoy every minute. Life is short, something we all too frequently forgot. In the tradition of No Reservations (ironically, also from a foreign film) or Julie & Julia, this is worth checking out. Really, after that, all that’s left to say is, Bon Appetite!

You can find Tortilla Soup (at publication) on Netflix.


‘Tortilla Soup’ (2001) - It's all About Family and Food. A review of the film with Hector Elizondo and Elizabeth Pena. All review text © Rissi JC

Note: this review was published in the archives five or more years earlier. Since moving to WordPress, 90% of the reviews, lists and articles need re-formats and/or other updates. Updated edits and changes to fit current formats have been made; it has also been updated with new photos, and republished.

This review is originally from January 19 2012.

CONTENT: we see Carmen in a state of half-undress with her boyfriend. Later, we see another women in nothing but undergarments; and another still is said to sleep with every man she meets [informed crudely]. Profanity pops up periodically, but there are a couple misuses of Jesus’ name; Spanish is used a couple of times in suggestive ways. Sex is discussed in cavalier ways. There is a death that is quite emotional for the family; an older man also marries a younger woman. The rating is PG-13.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Natalie – I quite enjoyed this one. It involves us enough in the characters lives but mainly prepares some scruptious-looking food. =)

    No, I've not seen Sweetland, but I've come close to renting it a time or two. It looked interesting – have you seen it?

    Trinka – it is! =) I saw it for the first time last summer and was charmed by its simplistic story-telling.

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