lars hallstr÷m's chocolat (he is probably most well-known for his cider house rules) is a charming tale that borders somewhere between na´ve, slightly moralizing story and delicate, gentle and dreamy narrative. it is funny how several times it reminded me of mary poppins (must have been the "harsh north wind"; was it east wind for mary poppins?) and the evil count reminded me of beautician and the beast (come to think of it, the latter would be the closest comparison story-wise). it is same old story, told and re-told dozens of time; it was amusing to notice how this film seemed to reference some material of french new wave in its retro stylizations.
binoche is very impressive as usual, I have always liked her as an actress, and here she portrays a nice blend between strong, determined character and sensitive woman (this contrast was a bit unnatural at times, but it must have been the fairy-tale side of her personality kicking in). it was nice to see lena olin again that was so memorable in kaufman's unbearable lightness of being. not to mention presence of carrie-anne moss - altogether quite a cast, come to think of it.
obviously, you cannot demand too much realism from this film, it has a balanced feel of a story set "not too long ago and not too far away"; in fact you cannot really place when the story took place - the fact that enhances its timeless fairy tale image. relax, slip into dreamlike world of this picture and just enjoy it for what it has to offer.
overall a very nice and kind film, with quite a few likable characters. plus the whole setting and cinematography had some really impressive elements and a definite style; this, for once, is something I would definitely recommend this movie for.