Awhile back, I saw a preview for the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey and I was intrigued yet hesitant. Intrigued because I used to be a French teacher and the film takes place in France – and hesitant because I had neither heard nor read anything about this film beforehand. But I decided to take a chance the other night and give it a try. I was more that pleasantly surprised by this well-constructed, heartwarming story.
The film follows an Indian family who flee India after a tragedy and wind up in a small, French town when their vehicle breaks down. Papa Kadam (the father) played by Om Puri, notices a vacant building and decides it would be a perfect place to open an Indian restaurant. There is one problem however – and that would be Madame Mallory, played Helen Mirren, who is the owner of high-brow one-star Michelin restaurant (who is trying to get her second star) situated across the street – literally one hundred feet away, hence the title of the movie.
Needless to say, Madame Mallory is none too happy that an Indian joint is opening across from her haute-cuisine restaurant so she attempts to foil their plans, resulting in a culinary battle between the two establishments. The result is some delightfully comical scenes. Helen Mirren and Om Puri are adversaries most entertaining and it’s a treat to watch as the chemistry develops between them.
There is a second theme to this movie which centers on the son and the main chef of the Indian restaurant, Hassan Haji, played by Manish Dayal. We learn that he is much more that a mere cook but rather possesses an extreme talent and passion for cooking, a talent and passion not seen in most chefs. We witness his journey as he learns the fine art of French cooking (much to the chagrin of Papa) and eventually becomes a critically acclaimed chef. But Hassan’s journey is not always an easy one and some difficult decisions must be made.
On a basic level, the film depicts a familiar story of the clash between two cultures, French and Indian, but in this case, centered on cooking. But it is more. This beautifully-filmed movie is also filled with all the joys and sorrows, ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments that accompany life but with wonderful humor interweaved into the story.
The Hundred-Foot Journey has everything that I might want in a film: comedy, drama, a touch of romance, succulent delicious-looking food, excellent acting and a happy ending. It’s a feel good movie without being sappy that will delight the senses. I found the acting, directing and plot to be first-rate in this gem of a movie.
If you get a chance, go see it, especially if you enjoy movies about food. I guarantee you’ll be hungry afterwards.