Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Hundred-Foot Journey

This film will leave you smiling and impart warm fuzzies in large quantities as it delivers its happy ending - it is after all a Dreamworks film. The narrative arc is very straightforward but doesn't disappoint. This is a film that is first and foremost about the characters and the clash of cultures between Mumbai and rural French Michelin starred cuisines.

Having been driven out of Mumbai by a gang who burn down their restaurant in an election result dispute, the family seek asylum in Britain. Finding the weather too inclement they set off in a old Transit van across Europe with Papa Kadam (Om Puri) knowing he'll find the right place to set up a new restaurant when he sees it. That happens to be in the rural village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val - 100 feet across the road from the Michelin starred "Le Saule Pleureur" (The Weeping Willow) run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). With all its gaudy ostentation, Maison Mumbai duly opens and so the feud between widow and widower sparks to life. The 100 feet also separate the cultures and cuisines of classical French and Indian food, the aspirations of Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) and Hassan (Manish Dayal) to develop their culinary skills and reputations, and a family-run enterprise over and against a kitchen that simply hires the best chefs.

There are a lot of comical moments in the film that the cast deliver with great charm and warmth. The way in which the 'cold war' develops between Papa Kadam and Madame Mallory is masterful and filled with child-like petulance. The blossoming love between Marguerite and Hassan always looks unlikely to come to fruition but is another central thread that weaves this tale of Mumbai colliding with rural idyllic France.

Unusually for me I had first encountered this through the novel of the same name. The novel spends much longer in the beginning in India and the descriptions of Mumbai life, its restaurants and markets will evoke pictures, sounds and aromas for anyone who has had the privilege of visiting India. The mob storming the Kadam's restaurant in Mumbai and a similar experience in France are unwelcome intrusions in an otherwise gentle and fun romantic story that meanders as gently as the river flows through the countryside of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val.

This film will warm your heart and make you smile. A lovely tale well told, with strong characters that will endear themselves to you. It might even make you want to phone out for a curry! If you've not seen this, do add it to your list of films to watch. I'll give it 8/10.

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