Review by Sean Boelman
The newest film from documentarian Jason Wise (Somm), The Delicacy explores the culinary phenomenon that is uni. Offering an entertaining and informative account of the way this delectable rarity makes its way from the ocean to dinner tables across the globe, this is an unexpectedly captivating watch, even if you don’t partake in the cuisine it features.
In the documentary, Wise takes a look at the history and industry that have popped up around uni, a seafood delicacy consisting of the innards of sea urchins. As the movie discusses, the taste of uni is unique and hard to define, and sometimes different people can taste different things, but the focus here is less on how the dish is prepared and more on how it is harvested.
A majority of the film follows a group of divers who make a living off of diving for and collecting sea urchins off of the ocean floor. As one would expect, it’s a potentially dangerous endeavor, and as a result, these divers have a great deal of cinematic stories to tell about their underwater exploits.
The movie does a very good job of creating a connection between the audience and its subjects, even with a runtime of a mere hour and ten minutes. By focusing primarily on one team of divers and the things they are doing to change the industry, the viewer will gain an appreciation for the difficulty of what they do.
Particularly interesting about the film is that it poses a question as to why uni has become such a popular delicacy. Starting with abalone fishing, Wise and his interviewees present a history of the field and how it evolved into modern sea urchin diving. It’s fascinating to hear their theory about the origins of the cause of the demand for uni and other rare seafood.
Of course, as is the case with any great documentary about food, there are plenty of mouthwatering food shots that will make you crave what is being photographed. Although it isn’t the main point of the movie, Wise interviews some chefs who work with uni, and they present an interesting perspective as to why viewers should admire the urchin.
Wise and his crew shot the documentary on Kodak film, and the result is something that is absolutely gorgeous to look at. In a way, the movie offers a combination of nature documentary and food documentary that is as aesthetically pleasing as one could ask for. The score by Trevor Morris and Trey Toy is also brilliant.
The Delicacy is an unexpectedly great documentary. Even though the film easily could have held viewers’ attention for at least another thirty minutes, if not more, director Jason Wise gets his story told in a brief and satisfying way.
The Delicacy streams exclusively on Somm TV beginning May 7.
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