By Andrea Karen Hammer
The Hundred–Foot Journey, with a fitting title for our times, is a romantic film exploring the cultural divides separating two competitive restaurants facing each other across a road.
This story begins in a blaze, with a wildfire taking the life of the beloved wife and mother in the Kadam family. As the bereft group leaves India to search for a new home and restaurant location in France, the father (Om Puri in a textured performance) symbolically loses control of their run-down car, which leaves the family emerging unscathed but bewildered down an embankment.
With the physically and spiritually lost father seeking guidance from his deceased wife, viewers continue to feel her presence as a major influence throughout the film. Of particular note, her special collection of spices from India were salvaged in the fire and given to her son and aspiring chef Hassan (who Manish Dayal embodies with skill and charm).
Young Chefs With Sizzling Chemistry Share Love of Food
After the sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon who is equally captivating) coincidentally finds and rescues the family, she takes them to her home, where she quickly prepares a luscious spread of fresh bread, cheese, tomatoes and more for the hungry family. With their shared interest in food and immediate chemistry, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) and Hassan (Manish Dayal) form a fast–although sometimes competitive–relationship as an ideal movie match.
After Hassan’s father purchases the vacant property across from Madame Mallory’s (the always divine Helen Mirren) Michelin-starred French restaurant (where Marguerite works), the food and culture wars begin. As the externally hardened but privately fragile restaurant owner, Helen Mirren displays her distinctive finesse. She is a surprising foil and romantic match for Om Puri, who literally turns up the music and heat in the kitchen to give Madame Mallory a serious run for her money.
Crusty Restaurant Owners Re-Discover Their Softer Sides
With equal crustiness on the outside, both characters ultimately re-discover their softer feelings, as they march back and forth to each other’s restaurants. Their push-pull struggle between French and Indian cuisine finally gives way during an exquisite ballroom-style dance after Madame Mallory takes Hassan under her wing. As she trains him to become a rising Michelin-starred chef who travels the world, he similarly experiences seismic changes in his relationship with Marguerite.
With layers of symbols and meaning, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a visually beautiful and romantic film with perfectly baked performances, which are absolutely delicious.