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Why ‘From Scratch’ is one of the best drama series right now - prepare to bawl your eyes out, though

Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino Ortolano and Zoe Saldana as Amy Wheeler in ‘From Scratch’. l AARON EPSTEIN/NETFLIX © 2022

Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino Ortolano and Zoe Saldana as Amy Wheeler in ‘From Scratch’. l AARON EPSTEIN/NETFLIX © 2022

Published Nov 6, 2022


I watch a lot of TV series and movies. And I do mean a lot. As a critic, it can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on what you are watching.

On Thursday, after a particularly gruelling day of deadlines, I was restless. Despite my weary state of mind, I was unable to switch off and saunter into dreamland.

I was convinced that watching something will do the trick. After a painful few minutes of “Dubai Bling” (sorry, I just couldn’t get past the narcissism, bitchiness and woe-is-me drama), I switched to “From Scratch”.

This series should have come with a warning label as it starts off as a deceptively innocuous rom-com. Before you know it, you are bawling your eyes out for several hours as you try to catch your breath.

That was me, five episodes in. It took a lot of strength for me to muster the courage to eventually stop and get some shut-eye.

Based on Tembi Locke’s “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home”, this 8-part series stars Zoe Saldaña as Amy and Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino.

Their love story starts in Florence, Italy. Having visited this beautiful city, walked along its pristine cobbled-stone streets, gazed at the stars at night and soaked up its rich architecture and art, I can honestly say it doesn’t get more perfect than this.

‘From Scratch’. Left to right: Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino Ortolano and Zoe Saldana as Amy Wheeler in episode 101. l PHILIPPE ANTONELLO/NETFLIX © 2022

Having put her law studies on hold, Amy decided to follow through with her passion for the arts by enrolling in a short course.

Of course, once she sets foot in Florence, she is wooed by the beauty of the city.

It’s a big deal for this born-and-raised Texas gal. But she feels liberated and inspired. As mesmerised as she is with Florence, its artists and its history, she, in all her beauty, captures the attention of two suitors.

Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino Ortolano, Zoe Saldana as Amy Wheeler, Judith Scott as Maxine Wheeler and Keith David as Hershel Wheeler in ‘From Scratch’. l AARON EPSTEIN/NETFLIX © 2022

But she gives her heart to the one that feeds her creativity and soul – Lino. A proud Sicilian, he, like her, defied family expectations to pursue a career as a chef.

This left his relationship with his father, a farmer who was looking to pass the baton onto Lino, fractured.

When Amy returns home, they pursue a long-distance relationship for over a year before Lino joins her. But life in a new country isn’t easy.

He struggles to find a decent job and faces several challenges on that front. The estranged relationship with his family weighs heavily on him as he doesn’t have that support.

Meanwhile, Amy, pursuing her passion for the arts, lands a dream job at a gallery. Her career is going well. She has a dysfunctional but loving family.

Her mother, dramatic and overbearing at the best of times, has her own charm.

But Lino has to win them over, first.

The struggles Lino and Amy face is relatable. Firstly, they are from different backgrounds. So it is a cultural adjustment for both of them.

Like most couples, they learn how to compromise, listen, and be supportive. They know they have to respect one another and be supportive.

But theirs is a love story that goes beyond normal challenges when he learns he has cancer. It’s a journey that tests their love in many ways but also strengthens it.

“From Scratch” takes the viewer on an incredible journey of romance, travel and life.

From Lino yearning to be united with his family after his father disowns him for bringing shame onto the family, Amy being a rock on the outside but an emotional volcano inside, to the tears that come from situations born out of anger, hope and forgiveness, it makes this one of the best dramas I have seen of late.

Paride Benassai as Giacomo Ortolano and Lucia Sardo as Filomena Ortolano in ‘From Scratch’. AARON EPSTEIN/NETFLIX © 2022

The writing is brilliant. And there are moments of comic levity interspersed throughout the drama where the emotions are raw and relatable.

I’ve always been a fan of Saldaña but, boy oh boy, does she deliver a mind-blowing performance as she straddles the strength and vulnerability of her character from being hopelessly in love to seriously in love and married and a mother.

Mastrandrea is dreamy. Talk about leaving female fans weak-kneed, he does that. He oozes sex appeal. But beyond the physical, he matches Saldaña’s gravitas as an actor.

If you enjoyed terminally romantic offerings like “Dying Young”, “Sweet November”, “Autumn in New York”, “Me Before You” and “A Million Little Things”, you will love “From Scratch”.

Aside from the fact that it is based on a real-life story, it is so beautifully framed and executed. Honestly, it’s been a while since I cried so much and you will do too. It’s that mesmerising.

“From Scratch” is streaming on Netflix.