I was never much of a food enthusiast before I moved overseas. It all started with watching videos of food back home that I couldn’t get anymore in an attempt to either make it (which was impossible, in most cases) or be somewhat satisfied with just looking at it. That meant that the video had to be pleasing to look at, which got me into an unhealthy habit of watching food films.
From my experience, good food movies are rare – if you are looking for a movie with a original plot and thorough character development. The Hundred Foot Journey is no exception. An Indian family leaves home and starts a restaurant in a small French village, with a Michelin star restaurant right across the street (hence the hundred feet between them). It’s run by the strong-willed Madame Mallory, played by Helen Mirren, who’s quite offended by these newcomers with their blaring music and showy signs. Directed by Lasse Hallström, it already sounds a little like one of his older films, Chocolat.
Just as the Indian cuisine meets the French, the film itself is a combination of multiple themes, only few of them fully developed. There’s quite a bit of romance in there, combined with some cultural reconciliation, competition, achievement of dreams and the importance of home. Together, however, they make a movie that is easy to gulp down.
If you are willing to sit through cultural cliches and a predictable plot, The Hundred Foot Journey is an aesthetically pleasing, humorous and charming film (that said, I wouldn’t know if Mirren’s French accent is awful or not). The cinematography of the lush forest, the lively market, and of course, the food, is enough to place bring you into the middle of a picturesque fairy-tale village. Despite taking place in contemporary times, the setting seems be reminiscent of the 70’s or the 80’s. The rustic Indian kitchen and the refined French kitchen, along with the music that combines both of these aspects, enhances the clash and reconciliation of the two cuisines. Whether it’s the sun-lit vegetables in the market, a giant fish platter, or an omelet, the food looks at its best.
Helen Mirren and Om Puri, who plays the “Papa” of the Kadam family, are the ones that allow the characters to flourish beyond what is necessary for the plot. The contrast between Puri who skillfully handles his boisterous, stubborn character while offering glimpses of the love for the family and Mirren who manages to act a haughty and sharp image along with vulnerability is what drives the majority of the film forward.
Beware, there’s some slow motion vegetable chopping and the egg whisking in the melodramatic moments. If you can just laugh through those parts, then I would say it’s worth a watch as a slower, feel-good kind of movie. Try to get some food beforehand.