Lessons I Learned from One of My Favorite Movies: Chocolat

The other night, as rain poured again outside my window, I chose to curl up with a good movie. I picked an old favorite, a movie I’ve often referenced as one of my faves, but I hadn’t seen it in years, so I couldn’t quite remember why.

The movie starts with a tiny town in France, where all the village people are rushing to church and preparing for Lent, to give up their desires and forgo pleasures. With a northern wind, Juliette Binoche comes to town with her daughter, both of them in red travel cloaks.

Juliette opens up a choclaterie where we see a steady of stream of village people come in, delighted and intrigued, but most of them say no to her offers, and retreat quickly.

This is so much like life and this character and the opening scenes illustrate some of my deepest values in life. No wonder this movie is an all-time favorite.

Here are the life lessons to be found in the movie, Chocolat:

Juliette doesn’t just fit in. Though in a small, Catholic town where going to church is expected, she politely declines.

Lesson #1: Be you. Without shame. Although everyone else expects you to do what they’re doing, you can choose to bring the magic + uniqueness of you. That’s truly the gift they require anyway.

Juliette has a talent for making delicious chocolate treats which she offers up to people to assist them with whatever problem they’re having, from a lack of livelihood, to no romance, she finds just the right cure for what ails them.

Lesson #2: How do you help solve problems for others? This is your genius, your brillance, and your best business idea. Know what problem you solve and offer it up on a beautiful platter.

Juliette is being of service to everyone in the town. She’s come with her magic and she’s there to make a difference. She pays attention to what’s going on with others and then she offers help.

Lesson #3: Contribute to others. Offer help. Be curious. See what you can do to make the lives of those around you lighter, easier, and do it. That’s your path + your purpose.

The children in this town are over-parented by helicopter families. Moms control the kids and refuse to let them be who they are.

Lesson #4: To the best of your ability, let your children be. Let them play, make mistakes, get messy.

The people in town begin to talk about Juliette. That she’s indecent, brazen, that her daughter is a bastard. The religious leader in town forbids anyone to go to her shop. Even as she reaches out to bring light, connection, love and hope to those around her, she is deemed dangerous.

Lesson #5: People full of love and light have always been shunned, ostracized, and made to feel bad or wrong for being different. This still happens today. Don’t let the shame or hate of others sway you.

Juliette responds by being angry, upset, larger. She fights to be herself.

Lesson #6: Women have often been told to be still, quiet, pretty, to just sit there and look nice. The feminine is big, passionate, full of emotion. Be you, fully, wildly.

Juliette’s daughter loves to hear stories each night at bedtime.

Lesson #7: Tell stories. Share your stories. Stories are powerful.

One of the stories is about cacoa and its healing properties. Juliette’s character is part of a tribe of wanderers who goes from town to town dispensing ancient healing remedies. She must move on with the cold, northern, wind.

Lesson #8: Chocolate, cacoa, is healing. The ancients knew so much about healing, we can look to the past, the shamans, healers and ancient tribes for their healing ways. Eat chocolate. Honor the wisdom of the elders and the ancients.

Just when I think it couldn’t get any better, enter: Johnny Depp.

He’s a “river rat” of sorts. AKA a traveling gypsy. Someone who loves the pleasures of life, including music and dancing. At the height of the movie, in the biggest rebellion, some of the village people gather with said traveling gypsy, on his boat, for music and dancing. They have a raucous good time.

Lesson #9: Gather in community, play music and dance. Be young.

In the end, the one who was the most fervent in his wishes that people refrain, the one who spread the maliciousness, (The Comte, or priest) he ended up gluttonous- breaking into the chocolate shop and shoving loads of chocolate in his mouth.

Lesson #10: If we do not allow ourselves simple pleasures in moderation, if we starve our spirit, we will end up over indulging, being gluttonous, or we will take out our lack of self care and love on others and try to enforce that they too starve their spirits. You deserve sustenance. 

Juliette’s character finds the priest passed out in her chocolate window. She offers him a drink to revive and refresh his spirits and promises to not tell a soul.

Lesson #11: Be kind.

The new, young, priest goes on to say in his sermon, “We can’t measure our goodness by what we resist, or who we exclude, but by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.”

Lesson #12: Embrace, create, include.

In the end, Juliette surrenders to having a home, settling down, growing roots, and letting go of the tradition of following the wind.

Lesson # 13: Surrender. Let go. When you find peace and love and community- relax into it.


Rachel Claire

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