THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY SUMMARY
After the devastating losses of their family restaurant and their matriarch, the Kadam family leave India and head for Europe. They wander in search of a place where they can settle as well as open a new restaurant. Papa Kadam notices a property for sale in the small French village of Saint-Antonin. However, there are many reasons why it is not a good investment. One of which is due to the successful Michelin star rated restaurant only one hundred feet across the road. His family names other reasons to be deterred; no one in the French village will be interested in Indian food, the previous owners were not able to run a restaurant there successfully, among others. But Papa’s conversations with his deceased wife and his confidence in his son Hassan’s skills as a cook override all other concerns.
Hassan is excited to put to use the skills his mother taught him in the kitchen. He has also befriended a local girl named Marguerite. She works for the formidable Madame Mallory in the restaurant across the road. Hassan realizes that in order for his family business to succeed they must all adapt to the culture and the food. Marguerite is helpful to him in this regard. But Madame Mallory does everything she can to make it difficult for their business to succeed. She lodges complaints with the town mayor about minor infractions and purchases up all the ingredients they need before they can get to the market.
When a bigoted man attacks the Kadam restaurant, Hassan is injured, and the war between Papa Kadam and Madame Mallory comes to a head, with a surprising resolution. Suddenly, enemies reluctantly make peace. This changes the course of several lives, not the least of which is Hassan’s.
A DIRECTOR’S HOMAGE
There is a reason The Hundred-Foot Journey is one of my favorite movies. It is sweet, thoughtful, real and warm. It addresses issues like prejudice, nationalism, ambition and love in a realistic way without becoming “preachy” about it. This seems to be a hallmark quality of several films I’ve seen by Swedish director Lasse Hallström.
One of the things I appreciate about Hallström’s films is his ability to show not tell. He addresses divisive topics thoughtfully, allowing the viewer a window into both sides of an argument between flawed but still likable characters. He gives his characters time to think and to grow organically in their beliefs, instead of forcing them to be reactionary. Hallström doesn’t have a long or even commercially succesful list of films to his credit. But what he does have is better, films like Chocolat, Cider House Rules, Hatchi: A Dog’s Tale and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. These are all unique stories which should pass the test of time more than blockbuster films by other directors.
Helen Mirren may be the only actress in The Hundred-Foot Journey whom American audiences may recognize. But she fills her role as the rigid, proud French woman Madame Mallory as if she was born French. Her precise and tight body language and facial expressions show a haughty woman whose only love is her beloved restaurant. But Mirren allows the pain and loneliness of Madame Mallory to seep through the tiny cracks in her facade so that the audience can empathize with her. As she allows herself to open up, she finds her world expanding instead of contracting as she fears. Her personal growth as a character is perhaps the most profound in the film.
Besides the titled journey between two cultures, is the journey taken by the Kadam family. Om Puri portrays Papa Kadam as a strong, stubborn, but loving father figure for the family. He is determined to honor his late wife in his decisions. The relationship between him and his son Hassan is tenderly portrayed as each of them navigate their old world traditions, within their new country. There is a push and pull between them as Hassan urges Papa to adapt to French culture, but it is always respectful.
Then there is the issue to navigate of Hassan’s dream of being a true chef. Papa knows that his dream and his skill far exceeds their humble family restaurant. He struggles with allowing Hassan to grow beyond what the family can give him.
Both the cultural and Hassan’s personal journey to become a respected chef are further exemplified in his relationship with Madame Mallory’s sous chef, Marguerite. Their relationship begins tentatively as friends, with Marguerite more cautious due to her position with Madame Mallory. Though she shows no prejudice towards Hassan, she struggles with professional jealousy. Their romance grows very slowly, but sweetly. Hassan’s feelings are more evident, while Marguerite’s French reserve keep both the audience and Hassan guessing. Manish Dayal and Charlotte LeBon do a marvelous job with their respective characters. LeBon has such delicate features which bely her inner strength. And I couldn’t help but fall a little in love with Dayal’s Hassan, who is thoughtful, caring, forgiving and a bit of dreamer who knows how to work towards his goal.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a beautiful film of family, love and cultural differences and acceptance, with its’ messages enhanced by the gorgeous cinematography. As it focuses on feeding the bellies of its’ characters, it surreptitiously feeds the soul of the viewer. If you have ever dreamed of an idyllic life in a little French village, then this is the film for you. From sunny days fishing and picking mushrooms, to bike riding around the village, to children playing in the square, it hits the mark on what many American envision about the French lifestyle. Between the beauty of the story and that of the setting, it really brings to mind that poetic line of John Keats, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
Where to Watch: The DVD is available for purchase at a very reasonable price. Or you can rent/buy from the streaming sites, GooglePlay and iTunes.
Content Note: This film has a PG rating and is safe for the whole family.
Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”