Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Hundred-Foot Journey tells us about multiple journeys. It’s about an immigrant family’s journey from India to France. But it is mostly about the personal journeys the characters themselves make.
We are introduced to Hassan (Manish Dayal) in India as we see him learning to cook from his mother. We also see that even as a child he has the unusual gift of being able to appreciate the ingredients that make good food. But the Kadam family, long time restaurateurs, is forced by political violence to leave India. In a fire, they have lost everything. The fire that destroys their restaurant also kills Hassan’s mother.
Thus starts the first journey. The Kadam family, Papa, Hassan, sister Mahira, son in-law Mansur and the kids Mukthar and Aisha, are now wandering around Europe trying to find a place to settle. And Hassan is on his journey to becoming the chef that is within him. He explains to a French emigration officer that they left England because, “the vegetables had no souls”.
Well this film does have a soul. Lasse Hallström, the director, has made great food and the beautiful ingredients of that food the center of a soulful love story. A love story beautifully filmed with love in France.
As it turns out the Kadam family literally crashes into the French village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, which happens to have both, a vacant restaurant for sale, and a French restaurant 100 feet across the road. The family is tired and not happy with Papa’s (Om Puri) grand ideas. But as he explains why they are staying, “sometimes brakes brake for a reason”.
Even though the family is in a tough position Hassan has met Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the sous chef of that French restaurant across the road. She recognizes Hassan talent for cooking and his great potential. Hassan and she are really kindred spirits. Thus starts a journey of love between two young chefs.
And later we find out that Hassan really has another kindred spirit.
Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren) is the proprietor of Le Saule Pleureur and is not happy to have new noisy neighbors building an Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai, only 100 feet from her restaurant. In fact Madam does not seem to be very happy about anything. She is a widower and Le Saule Pleueur had received a Michelin star thirty years ago. She rules her domain with an iron fist in the quest, or journey, towards her second Michelin star. But Madam is talented as well. It is said that she can judge a chef’s ablities with one bite of an omelet.
Initially, as would be expected, it is tough going for Maison Mumbai. Madam does not like the completion and is offended by the Kadar’s loud music and spicy food. But, an act of violence and vandalize knocks Madam into realizing that she must make peace with Papa and her new neighbors.
It is at this point when Hassan makes an omelet for Madam. Actual, because his hands were burned during the vandals attack, Madam makes the omelet under Hassan’s directions. Now, here is where for me was the best part of the movie. When we see Madam reacting to the first bite of Hassan’s omelet we see only her back. We she her reaction not in her face, but in her back, her neck, her head, and we know exactly what she is thinking. I could watch that scene over and over again. Helen Mirren proves again why she is an Oscar winning actor.
Once Madam tastes Hassan’s omelet she, and we, now know that they are also kindred spirits. She now takes up where Hassan’s mother left off in helping Hassan become a great chef. But, the journey’s are not over. The love stories are still unresolved.
At the beginning of this review I mentioned that this film was a love story. Actually, there are multiple love stories in this film. Every time you see the work “journey” you can also use the work “love”.
We have the story of how love takes a family on a journey to where they need to be. We have the journey of a gifted young chef who loves food as much as he loves his family and his new found paramour and inspiration. We see a mature couple on a journey that breaks down old hurts and prejudges and leads to love. And we see that sometimes the longest journey of all, the one to home, take years and miles just to go 100 feet.