Netflix’s latest heart-wrenching addition to their catalog, From Scratch, is a stellar limited series based on Tembi Locke’s memoir Love and Loss. Although the opening sequence starts with a seemingly broken Amy Wheeler (Zoë Saldaña), the show quickly transitions to the beginning of a most romantic tale. One that is set in Italy. Or at least the exposition. It’s not long before Italian chef Lino Ortolano (Eugenio Mastrandrea) enters the frame and the spark between the two lovers ignites something in everyone who lays their eyes upon it.
The instant connection between the couple is as natural and illuminating as they come. This is highlighted even more by the backdrop of the rustic alleyways and the overpowering dreamy atmosphere of Florence. But even as Florence gets traded in for Los Angeles, Italy is never far gone. Amy starts to learn the mother tongue of her husband, and Lino’s love language appears to be food, which serves as an introduction to many classic Italian dishes that appear on the screen.
But as in Tembi Locke’s memoir, this portrayal of the tale doesn’t shy away from the more difficult parts of the story. The clashing of cultures is always luring in the background. The family dynamics prove to be more difficult than expected, and then there’s the tragedy. The one that also happened in real life. Lino dies. A devastating death that is, through terminal cancer. Yet, From Scratch does a good job of emphasizing that the loss of Lino is not the main takeaway. The love between Amy and Lino is.
A timeline so tender and sweet, with the occasional sensual preparation of food and frequent longing glances, is hard to recreate. Therefore it comes as no surprise that Tembi Locke herself, alongside her sister Attica Locke created the series. But at times, it also makes you wonder: how would a more detached team have tackled this common yet complex story? They might have completely focused on the whirlwind romance of it all. Or they could’ve embellished the dramatic parts of the story.
This version, however, is just the right one. It focuses on the tiny details while also zooming out to give a better outlook on the aspect of how different families come together. The intimate portrayal of love is applicable to many yet still feels ever so unique. The love between Amy and Lino feels real because it is real.
So, yes, From Scratch can be a little cliché at times, but not more than regular day-to-day life is. It also has so much more to offer than a run-off-the-mill romance production. Yes, a lot of the show is set in Florence, which is undoubtedly already more romantic than most other settings could’ve been. But, hey, who says no to the wonders of traveling to a place with such rich history, albeit through another Netflix show?
This is not to say that there are no flaws to be noticed. For starters, 44-year-old Zoë Saldaña playing a college-aged student in the first episode is hard to believe. The one saving grace of that performance is that no one else could’ve embodied Amy Wheeler as well as Saldaña, who is most definitely the star of the show as she shines every second that she appears on camera. Other standouts include Danielle Deadwyler, who plays Zora Wheeler, and Keith David as Amy’s dad Hershel Wheeler.
From Scratch is not like any other Hallmark-like series. It is rather a profound and complex story that doesn’t just rely on twists and turns to get their viewers to keep being engaged but instead by the premise of true love.