03 September 2016

The Hundred Foot Journey (starring Helen Mirren and Om Puri)

I was staying the weekend with a friend, and she suggested watching a DVD one evening. She pulled out a few of her favourites, and suggested this one. I hadn’t seen it, but it sounded interesting, and Helen Mirren is always worth seeing.

'The hundred foot journey' is about a young man called Hassan (Manish Dayal) who works as a cook in his father’s restaurant, initially in India. We meet the family as they move to Europe after a devastating attack, and the first half hour or so is a chapter of problems, some of them mildly amusing in a schadenfreude kind of way. It’s very much a paternalistic extended family, ruled over by the delightful Papa (Om Puri).

Eventually they decide to settle in a small French village and buy a derelict restaurant which they upgrade and convert…

Unfortunately they are opposite - 100 feet away from - a high class French restaurant which has a coveted Michelin star, and is owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Her chefs are highly trained and look down on other kinds of food and cooking - all except for Marguerite (Charlotte le Bon), a sous-chef in training, who is rather attracted to Hassam, and takes an interest in what he’s doing.

Hassan, it turns out, is not just a good cook but has a stunning gift for tasting spices and getting things exactly right; the culinary equivalent of perfect pitch, as one review put it.

There’s not a whole lot of plot; it’s character-based and mainly features the conflict between the two restaurants, as well as the inevitable clash of culture as French and Indian cuisines compete. Those looking for fast action or excitement would do better to look elsewhere, but for those who enjoy light but somewhat thought-provoking dramas, this is an excellent example. The ways that the conflict is eventually resolved are not all predictable,and some of the onscreen chemistry is quite powerful,

There are some caricatures, inevitably, but as a study of culture and character, I thought this excellent. Uplifting, and with the benefit of some stunning scenery. I was thinking that it would be a good one to add to our collection at home, only to realise that in fact it had been on my wishlist, and I have a copy already. Definitely one to re-watch.

This film is rated PG, which slightly surprised me as there are some quite intense and disturbing scenes, albeit brief. However there are no explicit scenes, and almost no bad language, which raises it still further in my estimation. I doubt if a child would be interested in this film anyway, but other than the intense scenes, there’s nothing unsuitable for even quite young children.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews

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