From Scratch: Zoe Saldana shines in this real life drama

Zoe Saldana in From Scratch

From Scratch is a gut-wrenching, heartbreaker of a love story. It’s based on a memoir by Tembi Locke with Zoe Saldana playing the lead character as she navigates family, marriage, parenthood, and loss. There are spoilers ahead.

From Scratch is so real. It’s a real story about real people and it plays on the screen as absolutely, touchingly, 100% real. The cast was well chosen with wonderful chemistry among the actors. Zoe Saldana was simply brilliant in an incredible performance that deserves recognition at awards time.

Zoe Saldana in From Scratch

The basic story is quick to describe. Amy (Zoe Saldana) goes to Italy to study art. She meets an Italian chef, Lino (Eugenio Mastrandrea). They fall in love. He follows her to America and they get married. They navigate crazy family dynamics. He gets cancer and is treated successfully. They adopt a baby. The cancer comes back.

Sounds simple, right? Sad, but simple and straightforward.

It isn’t simple. There are 8 beautifully written episodes full of nuance, subtle relationship issues, family love and pain, hope, and grief.

The story was developed for television by Tembi Locke, who created the series with her sister Attica Locke. The sister in the series is Zora (Danielle Deadwyler). In searching for the cast, they found Zoe Saldana, who is married to an Italian man, is a mom, and speaks Italian. Saldana’s theoretically a perfect fit, but she knocked it so far out of the park, they must have been overjoyed.

Zoe Saldana was simply brilliant in an incredible performance that deserves recognition at awards time.

Amy’s family included sister Zora, her big east Texas lawyer of a dad, Hershel (Keith David). He wore his boots and his Stetson everywhere he went and wanted mac and cheese for Thanksgiving dinner – forget that delicious Italian food on the table. Amy’s troublesome biological mother was Lynn (Kellita Smith). Her stepmother was Maxine (Judith Scott).

On Lino’s side of the family, in Sicily, were his estranged father, Giacomo (Paride Benassai), his mother Filomena (Lucia Sardo), and his sister Biagia (Roberta Rigano). This family relationship formed a large part of the nuance and heartache in the story.

Zoe Saldana, Danielle Deadwyler, Lorenzo Pozzan, and Eugenio Mastrandrea in From Scratch

The wedding was held in an Italian villa. Amy’s family made it. Lino’s did not. They were so close, but yet so far.

You may have noticed that the main character is Black and the series creators are Black. Nzingha Stewart, also a Black woman, and Dennie Gordon, directed. So you’d expect an authentic Black perspective on this story.

Eugenio Mastrandrea joins in the electric slide in From Scratch

However, for me, the authentic icing on the cake was dancing the Electric Slide on the balcony of an Italian villa after the wedding. That’s when it hit me: this is the real thing!

This series will make you cry as often as it makes you smile. There are so many thematic threads woven through the story. The beautiful love story. The unresolved pain among families. The love for an adopted child. The problems finding work as a foreigner in the U.S. The horrors of cancer. The treatment by doctors and nurses of Black women standing at the bedside of white men. The bond between sisters. These themes aren’t merely glanced at. They are thick and full and juicy.

Final word. From Scratch is an outstanding series. Carry Kleenex and watch it on Netflix. Here’s the trailer on YouTube.

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