In “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) has a culinary gift, an innate instinct for food and cooking. Displaced by political unrest in their native India, the Kadam family, led by Papa (Om Puri), set out to make a fresh start in Europe. Fate has them break down in the quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France. Papa decides this is the ideal place to settle down and open an Indian restaurant, the Maison Mumbai.
Filled with charm, it is both picturesque and elegant. That is, until the chilly chef proprietress of Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin starred, classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), gets wind of it.
Her haughty opposition to the new Indian restaurant a hundred feet from her own escalate to all out war between the two establishments. That is until Hassan’s passion for French haute cuisine and for Madame Mallory’s enchanting sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), combine with his unmistakable, talent blending the very best of their two cultures that even Madame Mallory cannot ignore. At first Madame Mallory’s culinary rival, she eventually recognises Hassan’s gift and takes him under her wing.
There is something to be said for the popularity of both traditional and reality cooking shows that has seen a greater awareness, a greater appreciation for what we eat, particularly the ingredients and preparation. Central to the cast as any of the actors, food plays its role in anchoring the story around culture, creativity, innovation and excellence.
The movie, as the name says, is a journey. A journey through a series of conflicts and resolutions, through ignorance and intolerance. Each time leading to a better place and an ultimate realisation. None are laboured and the momentum is always positive.
There’s romance, a liberal sprinkling of humour and visually, the movie is a feast with each scene a piece of art in itself.
Some may have criticised the movie as predictable, a piece of confection. Few movies these days aren’t predictable. So yes, perhaps it is confection. It looks good, it feels good. It leaves a pleasant taste in your mouth and reminds us while there are cultural divides, with understanding, the more we are different the more we are the same.
Gauging by my session’s applause at the end, many will find this movie to their taste.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
Cast: Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes