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Review: Documentary 'Chef Flynn' follows a phenom of the food world

Review: Documentary 'Chef Flynn' follows a phenom of the food world
Flynn McGarry in the documentary "Chef Flynn." (Kino Lorber)

Whether hitting a curveball or creating haute cuisine, there is something fascinating about watching a precocious talent at work. Director Cameron Yates’ intimate, at times claustrophobic, documentary “Chef Flynn” provides such a view of culinary wunderkind Flynn McGarry.

Obsessed with cooking by age 10, with a kitchen in his bedroom to practice his knife skills with Zen-like devotion, McGarry was serving multicourse meals at his Studio City home by 12 and landed on the cover of the New York Times Magazine at 15.

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The film generates its emotional framework from Flynn’s relationship with his mother, Meg, a filmmaker depicted as sacrificing her own creative pursuits to facilitate her son’s dream. Much of “Chef Flynn” is from her perspective, through copious footage she shot — we practically watch him grow up onscreen — and off-the-cuff interviews that leave her as the documentary’s primary voice. Rather than the parent pushing and pressuring the child, it’s Meg who appears barely able to keep up with her son’s ambition.

Yates’ verité collage approach naturally leads to an elliptical narrative. But it occasionally feels frustratingly indulgent, like being cornered in a one-way conversation where you can’t ask a question. About to turn 20, McGarry now lives and works in New York, and we’re left to wonder if we’ve witnessed the beginning of a great career or a candidate for a future “Where are they now?” profile.

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‘Chef Flynn’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Landmark Nuart, West Los Angeles

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