The new film, The Hundred Foot Journey, released in the U.S. on August 8th, shows how the human spirit can travel across the divide of human frailty and strength. The comedy/drama takes the viewer through a variety of emotional responses, from joy to horror to hope, and back again.
This newly released film, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg and directed by Lasse Hallström, is adapted from the bestselling novel by the same name (by Richard C. Morais, Simon & Schuster, 2010). The story opens with the Kadam family in their restaurant business in India and teenage Hassan (Manish Dayal) learning intently from his mother. He displays a natural inclination in the art of cooking.
After being taken by surprise in an uprising against the government, the family from India suffers total loss, including that of the mother. Displaced and grieving, the now family of six seeks a safe home in Europe where they hope to continue their family restaurant business.
By happenstance and accident, the family lands in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps. They are taken in by Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), who offers them food and refuge while their van gets repaired. Following their headstrong father (Om Puri), they end up opening an Indian restaurant across the street from the esteemed Michelin-starred French restaurant of Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), much to her chagrin.
In the wake of the death of his mother and without formal training, young Hassan is thrown into the role of head cook in the new restaurant. Earnest and attempting to help his family succeed at their new business, Hassan is taken aback by the bitter battle that is initiated by the staff of Madame Mallory.
For her part, Madame Mallory has a serious demeanor that belies her inner passionate heart, which is muted for much of the film. This is juxtaposed with the wry manner of Marguerite, who is the restaurant’s sous-chef, aspiring to be the chef de cuisine. The interplay between the two restaurants, and the characters at each, is what makes the film both charming and tense.
Early in the film, it is revealed that the hundred foot journey refers to the distance across the street between the two restaurants, and that the divide is more like a chasm. The differences between the two restaurants have to do with usurping turf, different cooking styles and social class differences, but they are much more than that.
Unspoken through the film, The Hundred Foot Journey, is the prejudice that exists between a nation’s majority culture and immigrants who, as Madame Mallory says in the beginning, have opened a “fast food something ethnic” restaurant. The word “ethnique” (in French) is spoken pejoratively and dismissively, although that is not addressed.
Throughout the film, it is clear that, would circumstances be different, Marguerite’s alliances would be more closely aligned with the Indian family. However, she is seeking to further her career, and that takes precedence over personal associations.
As the film unfolds, the mood turns from disparaging to more violent, reminiscent of what transpired for the Kadam family in their native India. The transformation from that moment in time to resolution is what helps the movie to have its sweetness, as former prejudices are pushed aside. The Hundred Foot Journey reaches across the divide in many ways.
Review by Fern Remedi-Brown