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The film takes place in a kind of medieval village in 1959 France. The townspeople are all churchgoing; traditional folk who seem quite happy in their simple little lives
or are they.
The mayor of the town is the moral authority and he sees to it that his town stays the way it is. He even writes some of the Catholic priest's sermons for him.
One wintry day, the north wind brings with it Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk. She has come to town to open the old pastry shop. The mayor objects because after all, it is Lent and among other things, pastries will surely be given up by the townspeople.
Vianne assures him that he need not worry, it won't be a pastry shop. Instead, to everyone's surprise, Vianne opens up a chocolate shop. She has an uncanny ability to know exactly which chocolate is the favorite of the customer. This chocolate shop gets the whole town in a frenzy. Her chocolates act as an aphrodisiac as suddenly, husbands are passionate with their wives again and timid townspeople have the courage to ask others out on dates.
Her chocolate has other powers as well. Her landlord, (Judith Dench) has the courage to re-form a relationship with her grandson that her daughter (Carrie-Anne Moss) has forbidden. Another townsperson, Josephine (Lena Olin) has the courage to escape from her wife-beating husband and comes to live with and work for Vianne.
The mayor is incensed. He even writes a sermon for the priest about the sins of temptation, the temptation of chocolate. Suddenly, all the townspeople are going to confession to confess about their love of chocolate.
Nothing could be worse for his simple town than this chocolate shop. That is of course until down the river floats Johnny Depp and his band of Irish gypsies.
The mayor issues a "Boycott of Immorality" and asks the townspeople not to associate with these "river rats". Vianne, still upset at the mayor's sermon on chocolate, befriends Depp and invites him in for chocolate. The two form a friendship and Depp helps her with handyman type stuff around the shop. Although she keeps trying, she can never figure out his favorite chocolate.
Meanwhile, Carrie-Anne Moss is still mad at her son seeing his grandmother. Moss wants her mother to move into a nursing home so she could get the appropriate care but Dench is unwilling. We then learn that Dench is also a diabetic but still enjoys eating Vianne's chocolate, because she won't let her illness stop her from enjoying life.
Dench decides she wants Vianne to throw her a 70th birthday party. At first Vianne refuses but Dench says that if she does this for her, she'll then go to the nursing home.
Vianne invites a few of the townspeople (those that will speak to her) for a chocolate drenched meal of seafood, meat and poultry. Dench asks for dessert but Vianne has a surprise. Dessert will be served on Depps boat accompanied with gypsy music and dancing.
Everyone's having a wonderful time and in fact, Depp and Vianne go off on a small boat and make love as it floats off, away from the others.
Earlier, the mayor had a conversation with Josephine's wife beating husband about something needing to be done about the gypsies. The husband took that as a hint and when no one was watching during the party, sets one of the boats on fire.
Depp hears the screaming and gets up and looks out in the distance and sees the smoke and flames coming from one of his boats where Josephine and Vianne's daughter were sleeping. He and Vianne rush towards the boat but are too late as it explodes while Vianne is swimming out to it. When she gets back to shore she sees Josephine and her daughter safely on the riverbank.
Everyone goes home and Carrie-Anne Moss' son goes home with his grandmother to help clean up. When he checks on Dench, he discovers she has died in her sleep on the chair.
The Mayor discovers that Josephine's husband is the one that set the fire and told him that wasn't what he had in mind. He is so angry at the husband that he forces him to leave town.
Depp realizes that it's time for him to move on so he and his men leave town.
The mayor then goes to the chocolate store in the middle of the night to destroy Vianne's chocolates for the upcoming fertility celebration she planned as a protest on Easter Sunday. He starts whacking the nude chocolate statues into pieces but a small crumb of chocolate lands on his lip. As he licks it off, he is overwhelmed by the magic of the chocolate and begins eating everything in sight. He had just one day left of Lent but couldn't withstand the chocolate's temptation.
The next morning, Vianne discovers the mayor asleep in the storefront window, covered in chocolate. She cleans him up and sends him home.
He had destroyed all her work and she decides it's time for her to move and starts packing her bags as the north wind begins to sweep in. Her daughter doesn't want to go. She's tired of always moving from town to town but Vianne is compelled to be a gypsy herself, just like her mother was with her. She still carries her mothers ashes with her everywhere she travels. As she is preparing to leave, her daughter, still complaining about leaving, accidentally drops the urn and spills grandma all over the steps. She feels horrible and to make her mom happy, tells her she'll go with her after all. They scoop the ashes back up and when they get downstairs, they find all their friends in the kitchen preparing replacement chocolate for the fertility celebration. She decides to stay.
The celebration is a success and eventually Vianne tosses her mothers ashes into the wind so it can continue to carry her from city to city while Vianne and her daughter have found a permanent home.
A year later Depp returns to the chocolate shop and to Vianne. She offers him some hot chocolate. He smiles and tells her she finally figured out his favorite chocolate.
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