Hollywood seems to have found new inspiration in the East. In a time when film releases are full of superheroes, remakes and reboots, films that take place in India or feature Indian characters is becoming a trend. Since Slumdog Millionaire (2008), many other films have followed and The Hundred-Foot Journey is the last in the list.
The Hunded-Foot Journey is based on the novel of the same name written by Richard C. Morais. Directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon, the film tells the story of the Kadam family, led by Papa (Puri) and his son Hassan (Dayal), a talented and promising chef. After tragedy strikes the family, the Kadams decide to move to a quaint village in the South of France with the plan of opening an Indian restaurant, despite the fact that only 100 feet opposite stands a Michelin starred classical French eatery.Outraged by the new arrivals, the owner Madame Mallory (Mirren) is determined to have their business shut down. As cultures clash and food flies, a heated battle escalates between the two establishments – until, that is, Hassan’s passion and talent for French cuisine begin to enchant Madame Mallory and even she cannot deny this young chef could have what it takes to garner even more acclaim for her beloved restaurant.
Story wise, the film does not offer anything new and resorts to clichés about cultural clash to develop the plot, but offers a charming frame for the story to develop. Director and cinematographer Linus Sandgren succeed in capturing the charm of the small village in Southern France where the story takes place. Besides, as any good film in which food play an important role, filmmakers spare no footage to show the best of both restaurants. Food enthusiasts or not, the audience will enjoy the explosion of colours that the film has to offer. The display of French and Indian culinary delicacies is succulent and mouth-watering. Make sure you watch the film on a full stomach or you will be craving for food by the end of the film.
Despite the fact that the story revolves around Hassan and his evolution as a chef, as well as his romance with Marguerite, the film does not succeed in offering a strong love story. Both actors do a good job, but their characters are swallowed at times by the outstanding performances of the older pair, Helen Mirren and Om Puri. Although it is true that Mirren’s French is not totally convincing, her incarnation of the conceited Madame Mallory is exceptional, as well as the connection with Om Puri’s character. In fact, in the second part of the film Hassan’s story line loses strength. His evolution as chef is no longer as interesting, while the budding relationship between Madame Mallory and Papa captures most of the attention.
The Hundred-Food Journey is an appealing entertainer about building cultural bridges through food. Featuring fairly good performances, led by Helen Mirren and Om Puri, and despite few flaws that can be overlooked, the film is an overall satisfactory experience that leaves you with a good taste in your mouth.