By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “The Hundred-Foot Journey”; Cast: Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon, Michel Blanc, Farzana Du A Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Amit Shah, Clement Sibony, Juhi Chawla; Director: Lasse Hallstrom; Rating: *** 1/2
Based on the novel by Richard C. Morais and adapted by Steven Knight, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a charmingly frothy fable about an immigrant family and their endeavour to blend in a foreign land.
The film trails restaurateur Kadam’s Family from Mumbai. During a political unrest, their restaurant is destroyed, his wife is killed and they are forced to migrate. They seek asylum in London. And since their business was not doing well in the UK, they decide to shift base “anywhere in Europe”.
It is while driving through the countryside of France in a worn out van, they have an accident and they stumble upon a local, Marguerite, who takes them over to her place in the quaint village of Saint- Antonin-Noble-Val.
En route, a dilapidated property that once was a restaurant catches the patriarch’s eye. He decides this is where he would want his family to settle and open their new restaurant – Maison Mumbai.
His three older children – Hassan, Mansoor, and Aesha, – coax him to reconsider his decision citing that the French don’t like Indian Cuisine and that there is an elite Michelin Star restaurant diagonally opposite their property, literally hundred-feet away.
But Kadam is adamant. So as a last resort, Hassan tells his father to speak to his dead wife, to that he retorts, “She said the brakes failed for a reason.”
That seals their fate.
The Kadam’s set up their garish looking restaurant against all odds only to find their prodigy – Chef Hassan – has a different set of goals. And it is his journey to achieve his goal that forms the crux of the film.
Om Puri as the father is his usual self, sputtering and fuming portraying a beleaguered patriarch’s inner life. Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory, the snooty French woman and owner of the Michelin Star restaurant, excels too.
But it is Manish Dayal as Hassan and Charlotte Le Bon as Marguerite, who outshine the seniors.
The onscreen chemistry between both the couples – Helen and Om and Manish and Charlotte – is the life of the film.
It is the evolution of Puri and Mirren’s characters; from adversaries of personal and nationalistic pride, to respectful rivals who share common characteristics, which represents the films message that multicultural harmony can be achieved through an embracement of cultures, with food being the binding factor.
Cinematographer Linus Sandgren’s photography is a visual delight, capturing the natural beauty of France and the mundane life of the characters, in all its simplicity.
The food shots, the scenic locales and the flawlessly moving camera work that captures the characters in their stride injects an adrenaline boost to the viewing experience.
The humour and rant is so stereotype, yet fresh in its approach.
While the title as well as the setting makes a good allegory for the narration that is so typical of Director Lasse Hallstrom, the theme of the film as well as certain scenes remind you of his earlier film “Chocolat”, which was released in 2000.
The only drawback is that while plot is sugary sweet and engaging, the narrative lacks drama.