Chocolat is a clever movie about what it means to question traditional or dogmatic beliefs.
The film focuses on the traditions in the small rural French town of Lansquenet-sous-Tanne. Here, the Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), the mayor, is the supreme arbiter of morals. Like his predecessors before him, he takes the view that morality is preserved by resisting change, instead of encouraging people to think for themselves about what is right and wrong.
Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) are veritable flies in Reynaud's ointment when they set up a chocolate shop in his little town during Lent. A iconoclast herself, Vianne ends up tempting the others in the town who would question Reynaud's ways and ends up being a positive influence for the abused Josephine Muscat (Lena Olin), the lonely Armande Voizin (Judi Dench), and the mischaracterised river rat, Roux (Johnny Depp). However, her crusade also has its own toll on Anouk's development when it turns out that Vianne herself has a set of traditions that she blindly follows.
The cinematography and pacing are very good and pangs of desire for something sweet are sure to be felt seeing the delicacies prepared by Vianne. The story is told effectively by creating an aura of enchantment in the way Vianne works: Is she just offering chocolate or is there something more? The actors do an amazing job and give Chocolat its sweetness.
A lot of religion is based on the notion that something pleasurable must be wrong. Chocolat makes the point that something as good as chocolate can't be bad. Or perhaps it can be, but that choice should be left to individuals since consuming it doesn't cause harm to others. This is a message I wholly endorse, since I reject tradition for the sake of tradition. In fact, I believe that anything that doesn't cause harm to others shouldn't be considered wrong. While this is subjective, it is clear in the case of the traditions targeted by Chocolat that not only does ignoring tradition not cause harm, but that following it can be harmful.